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Merck Foundation to launch programmes in Botswana

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO Merck Foundation & President of Merck More than a Mother with H.E. First Ladies recently. (PHOTO/FILE)

MBABANE – In its bid to expand its African footprint, Merck Foundation is set to open its doors in Botswana.

This was confirmed by the Foundation’s CEO, Dr Rajah Kelej, who revealed the first launch programmes will be in operation by the second quarter of the year.

The campaign, which has been endorsed by the first lady, Neo Masisi, as well as the Ministry of Health and Awareness, will entail programmes around key health issues such as infertility, cancer, diabetes and lifestyle diseases.

“Following numerous exchanges, we will first launch the ‘Merck More than a Mother’ campaign with Her Excellency as the Ambassador with the aim to empower infertile women through information, health and change of mindset,” explained Kelej.

For her part, Masisi expressed gratitude to the foundation for the programme.

“There is stigma attached to infertility in our communities. Botswana is no different, with women often made to feel inadequate if they cannot or choose not to bear children. There needs to be education around these issues whilst we explore medical interventions to support couples in these situations,” said Masisi.

In addition to the programmes to be launched, Kelej says as part of the campaign there will be a media call to entry for the ‘Merck More than a Mother’ award.

“The award affords media training on health reporting and reporting on sensitive issues such as infertility,” she said.

The foundation will also provide training to health professionals in the fields of fertility care and oncology as well as launch a pilot project called ‘Blue Points’.

The project will provide one-year diplomas to doctors to build healthcare capacity in the country.

“Our vision is to develop a strong platform of specialized doctors to improve access to quality and equitable healthcare solutions in Botswana,” stressed Kelej.

Started in 2015, ‘Merck More than a Mother’ campaign currently has a presence in 35 countries in Africa and Asia.

The initiative supports governments in defining policies to enhance access to regulated, safe and effective fertility care.

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