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Second stage of Africa Oncology Fellowship Programme

The Merck Foundation has started the second stage of their Africa Oncology Fellowship Programme that started in 2016 with the aim to increase the limited number of oncologists in Africa.

Dr Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation said: “One of the main objectives of Merck Foundation is to build a strong platform of qualified medical, paediatric and surgical oncologists across the continent through the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Programme. Twenty candidates from Uganda, Zambia, Ethiopia, Namibia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Tanzania and Kenya have enrolled in the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Programme in partnership with African ministries of health, the University of Nairobi, Kenya, Tata Memorial Centre, India and Alexandria University, Egypt in 2016 and 2017. We are very proud of our contribution to lead Africa to a better future through changing the landscape of cancer care in the continent”, Kelej added.

Professor Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, chair of the executive board and chair of board of trustees of Merck Foundation explained: “Improving cancer care needs a substantial improvement in infrastructure and increase in the number of specialised workforce, which does not exist in many, if not most, sub-Saharan African countries. Enrolling more candidates from more African countries into our Fellowship Programme, is an important step forward towards improving access to cancer care across the continent”.

In June 2017, BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH), and the African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC), released a white paper on the African continent’s emerging cancer crisis. Over 20% of African countries have no access to cancer treatments at all, while access is limited and sporadic in other countries. Later-stage diagnosis in African patients contributes to poorer outcomes. For example, 5-year female breast cancer relative survival rates are 46% in Uganda and 12% in The Gambia, compared with around 90% in developed countries, the report cited.

In partnership with ministries of health across Africa, the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Programme provides one-year and two-year oncology fellowship programmes and a three year master degree in medical oncology at Tata Memorial Centre, India, University of Nairobi, Kenya and Alexandria University, Egypt, respectively.

Launched in 2016 as part of Merck cancer Access Programme, with the aim to increase the limited number of qualified oncologists in the continent, 3 medical doctors from sub-Saharan African countries Kenya and South Africa were granted a two-year Africa medical oncology fellowship training at the University of Nairobi. In addition, Merck Foundation supported another two African doctors from Ghana and Tanzania for the Paediatric and Adult Medical Fellowship programme that is conducted annually at Tata Memorial Centre, India.

“We will continue to enrol more candidates and engage other countries on this program as we firmly believe this is a vital component of improving the quality and accessibility of cancer care in Africa,” said Kelej.

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