Merck launches “More Than a Mother”, a New Campaign in Partnership with University of Nairobi and Kenya Women Parliamentary Association

KgaAMerck launches “More Than a Mother”, a New Campaign in Partnership with University of Nairobi and Kenya Women Parliamentary Association, aiming to reduce the Social Suffering of Infertile Women in Kenya.

• Merck collaborates with University of Nairobi to build fertility care capacity in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

• Merck is collaborating with Kenya Women Parliamentary Association to improve access to regulated, safe and effective fertility care in Kenya.

• Merck kicks off “More than a Mother” campaign to define interventions to reduce social suffering and stigmatization of infertile women in the country.

Merck (http://www.merckgroup.com), a leading company for innovative and top-quality high-tech products in healthcare, life science and performance materials, today announces the start of “More than a Mother” campaign as part of Merck Fertility Capacity Advancement Program, in collaboration with University of Nairobi and Kenya Women Parliamentary Association.

The program will not only provide medical education and awareness for medical students and general practitioners but will also support governments to define policies to improve access to safe and effective fertility care, address the need for interventions to reduce stigmatization and social suffering of infertile women and raise awareness about male infertility and the necessity for a team approach to family building among couples.

Through this campaign Merck will address together with local stakeholders, the key challenges that are associated with resource-constrained settings such as prevention of infertility, education & self-development, assisted reproductive technology (ART) & in vitro fertilization (IVF) regulation, geographic barriers, reproductive rights and over-population and limited resources arguments.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) data, more than 180 million couples in developing countries (which is one in every four couples) suffer from primary or secondary infertility. In Sub-Saharan Africa, infertility is caused by infections in over 85% of women compared to 33% worldwide, which emphasizes the importance of infertility prevention programs in Africa.

Differences between the developed and developing world are emerging because of the different availability in safe, effective and equitable infertility care, as well as different socio-cultural values surrounding parenthood and procreation since the social stigma of childlessness especially for infertile women still leads to isolation and stigmatization in many African cultures.

During her meeting with University of Nairobi and Kenya Women Parliamentary Association to kick off the campaign, Belén Garijo, Member of the Executive Board of Merck and CEO Merck Healthcare, emphasized “Providing access to infertility care is important, but it is even more important to intervene to decrease stigmatization and social suffering arising from this condition.”

“The United Nations universal declaration of human rights states that access to adequate comprehensive reproductive health services, including infertility care, is a basic human right regardless of the economic circumstances in which individuals are born into. Therefore, the Merck Fertility Capacity Advancement Program will contribute to identifying and implementing strategies to improve access to effective, safe and regulated fertility care in Africa and to defining interventions to decrease social suffering from infertility and childlessness,” Belén Garijo added

The consequences of infertility are much more dramatic in developing countries and can create more wide ranging social and cultural problems compared to Western societies, particularly for women.

A central difficulty associated with infertility is that it can transform from an acute, private distress into a harsh, public stigma with complex and devastating consequences.

In some cultures, childless women still suffer discrimination, stigma and ostracism. An inability to have a child or to become pregnant can result in being greatly isolated, disinherited or assaulted. This may result in divorce or physical and psychological violence.

Prof. Koigi Kamau, University of Nairobi said “Therefore –Merck’s “More than a Mother” campaign together with University of Nairobi will challenge the perception of infertile women, their roles and worth in society, both within and beyond the medical profession in order to achieve any systemic shift in the current culture of gender discrimination in the context of fertility care.”

“Infertility affects men and women equally. Approximately one-third of cases of couple infertility is due to male factors, one-third to female factors and one-third relates to a combination of male and female factors or has no identifiable cause. Today together with Merck and University of Nairobi, we launch “Fertility is a shared Responsibility””initiative to raise awareness about male infertility and encourage men to acknowledge and openly discuss their infertility issues and strive for a team approach to family building with their partners in order to progress toward Shared Fertility Responsibility among couples,” Prof. Koigi Kamau added

Hon. Joyce Lay, Taita Taveta Member of Parliament, said during the kick-off event: “Merck’s “More than a Mother” campaign will bring us together with academia, medical students, healthcare providers, policy makers and media to create a culture shift that respects women regardless if they have children or not. It will also raise awareness about male infertility and infertility as a shared responsibility between couples, their families, communities and care providers.”

“In order to improve access to safe and effective fertility care, a discussion with the relevant authorities will be needed to discuss the strengthening of infertility services, education, auditing, regulation, community awareness and the need to integrate them with Mother and Child, HIV prevention and Family Planning Programs, which already exist in health infrastructure,” Hon. Joyce Lay emphasized.

“We are happy to announce the kickoff of our social media campaign together with University of Nairobi, Kenya Women of parliamentarian Association and Kenya Fertility Society and to invite you to join us in a conversation on Twitter handle: MerckAndMothers and Facebook page “Merck More Than A Mother” and YouTube Channel “Merck More Than A Mother”. We will discuss together how we can reduce the social suffering and stigmatization of infertile women and raise awareness about male infertility in Kenya and the rest of Africa” Said Rasha Kelej, Vice President and Head of Global Business Responsibility and Market Development at Merck Serono, biopharmaceutical business of Merck.

Merck Fertility Capacity Advancement Program, in partnership with University of Nairobi, provides accredited medical education and awareness for medical postgraduates and healthcare providers from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in collaboration with EXCEMED and international fertility experts from Spain, Canada and Indonesia to improve patient access safe and effective fertility care.

Merck Capacity Advancement Program (CAP) Roadmap in Kenya:

Merck CAP has provided since 2012 more than 2,000 medical and pharmacy students with medical education about clinical diabetes and hypertension management in Kenya, and aims to reach more than 15,000 medical students across Africa by the end of 2018.

Merck has also announced in May 2015, the start of Merck Cancer Control Program (MCCP) in partnership with Africa Oxford Cancer Foundation (Afrox) and University Of Nairobi to educate the students and healthcare providers about cancer early detection and prevention. The program will be augmented by community awareness campaigns to contribute to reducing cancer incidence and improve its survival rates. The program has been kicked off in Uganda in April and will provide medical education in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania starting from June 2015.

Merck has developed tailored patient materials to raise awareness about cancer early detection and prevention among African communities to help controlling the disease and improving cancer survival rate in Africa.

Moreover, Merck African Supply Chain Forum has been launched in April 2015 in partnership with University of Nairobi, Kenya medical supplies authority (KEMSA) and Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK) in order to contribute to improving supply chain efficiency in Kenya by providing training and technical support to help developing and applying Good Distribution Practice (GDP) and Good Storage Practice (GSP) international guidelines in the country.

Merck has kicked of the first e-Diagnostic and Consultation Clinic in May 2015 as part of Merck e-health initiative in Kenya to improve access to better cancer care for patients in rural areas connecting them with cancer specialists in the referral hospital, Kenyatta national Hospital.