By Raphael Oni
African First Ladies, under the auspices of Merck Foundation, held a high-level virtual meeting to discuss solutions to health challenges on the continent.
The First Ladies who participated in the high-level meeting organised at the 8th Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary were from the Republics of Zambia, Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia.
The conference which was co-chaired by First Lady of Zambia, Mrs Esther Lungu and CEO of Merck Foundation, Senator, Dr Rasha Kelej, was under the theme “Together we make a difference”.
Also in attendance were Ministers of Health, Gender, Information, Education and Science & Technology from 25 African countries and more than 2000 healthcare providers, policymakers and media from over 70 countries as well as over 30,000 other participants.
Welcoming the participants, First Lady of Zambia, Mrs Esther Lungu said though Covid-19 has inhibited her from hosting her colleague First Ladies physically in the country, she was optimistic that the virtual conference will go a long way to help improve health and education in participating countries.
CEO of Merck Foundation, Senator, Dr Rasha Kelej said the conference will discuss strategies to build healthcare capacity and establish policymakers, healthcare providers, academia and media in an open dialogue on various topics to improve access to quality and equitable healthcare.
First Lady of Ghana, Mrs Akufo-Addo in her keynote address, outlined some benefits Ghana has derived from her partnership with Merck Foundation.
She stated that more than sixty healthcare providers have received critical training in the fields of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Respiratory and Acute Medicines, Sexual and Reproductive Medicines,
She however called for the urgent need to build robust health systems, to better prepare for global pandemics like Covid-19 stating, “the unthinkable toll of Covid-19 on health infrastructure has led to the realization that our health systems are not ready for a pandemic of such global magnitude. We all know this is by no means the last pandemic. There will be future pandemics and we have to be prepared.”