MeRck marks International Women’s Day with First Lady of Sierra Leone, Her Excellency Sia Koroma by launching "MeRck More than a Mother” for the first time

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  • Championed by the First Lady of Sierra Leone, "Merck More than a Mother" will build fertility care capacity and empower infertile women in partnership with the Ministry of Health.

  • "Merck More than a Mother" will support fertility training in Sierra Leone and Liberia so childless couples can be treated in their home countries for the first time.


Merck marked International Women’s Day with the First Lady of Sierra Leone, H.E. Sia Koroma, by launching "Merck More than a Mother” campaign for the first time in the country.

Watch the video below on "Merck More than a Mother” with the First Lady of Sierra Leone.

The campaign aims to improve access to awareness, fertility care, change of mindset and economic empowerment across Sierra Leone.

"Merck More than a Mother” commits to build fertility care capacity for the first time in the country in order to empower infertile women who suffer the stigma and discrimination resulting from an inability to have children,” Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare emphasized during Merck’s visit to the First Lady of Sierra Leone.

From left to right: Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare; Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of Executive Board and Family Board of E. Merck KG; H.E. Madam Sia Koroma, First Lady, Sierra Leone; and Sierra Leone’s Deputy Ministers of Health and Sanitation, Hon. Zuliatu Cooper and Hon. Madina Rahman

The campaign will be implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Sierra Leone, and is championed by H.E. Mrs. Sia Koroma who is very passionate about this noble cause. The First Lady further announced: "Merck More than a Mother is God sent to our country as infertile women are suffering every day because in Sierra Leone we do not have facilities to diagnose or treat them. We have never focused previously on raising awareness about this condition which has serious social implications and consequences.”

"I am very proud to be part of this historic campaign to advocate for this cause and help all these poor women to overcome this challenge. I will start by advising their families and communities to be kind to them and advise men to share the infertility treatment responsibility with their wives because around 50% of the causes of infertility is due to male factor, yet women are solely being blamed for it. We will work together with "Merck More than a Mother” and the Ministry of Health to change this culture and transform the landscape of fertility care in our country and the rest of Africa,” H.E. Madam Koroma added.

Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of Executive Board and Family Board of E. Merck KG; H.E. Madam Sia Koroma, First Lady, Sierra Leone; Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare; and Sierra Leone’s Deputy Ministers of Health and Sanitation, Hon. Zuliatu Cooper and Hon. Madina Rahman with infertile women from Sierra Leone

"Merck commits to build capacity and improve access to cancer as well as fertility care in Sierra Leone and across Africa. We are very proud to work closely and under the patronage of H.E. First Lady Madam Koroma and in a long term partnership with the Ministry of Health who are very passionate about this cause as we are,” said Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of Executive Board and Family Board of E. Merck KG.

From left to right: Dr. Santigie Sesay, Director of Reproductive Health, Sierra Leone; Hon. Zuliatu Cooper, Deputy Minister of Health and Public Sanitation; Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of Executive Board and Family Board of E. Merck KG; Hon. Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah, Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone; Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare; and Hon. Madina Rahman, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation

"The Ministry of Health will work closely with "Merck More than a Mother” to nominate the first two candidates for fertility and embryology training in the country’s history. "Merck More than a Mother” will support training for our healthcare providers to establish a fertility experts’ platform for the first time in the country. This is a great historic achievement as our country is in great need of this capacity building and we will join hands with Merck to achieve this objective to empower infertile women and transform their lives,” said Hon. Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah, Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone.

Regarding cancer care in Sierra Leone, Hon. Dr. Fofanah emphasized: "Merck will also provide medical oncology and pathology fellowship opportunities for our healthcare providers since we do not have any oncologists in the country yet. This program will improve access to cancer care significantly.”

"Merck will provide the same opportunities for Liberia in both infertility management training and oncology and pathology fellowship program through Merck More than a Mother and Merck Cancer Access Program respectively, since there are no fertility specialists or oncologists in Liberia too. Both programs will be conducted in Liberia in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection,” said Rasha Kelej.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare interviews an infertile woman in Sierra Leone as Hon. Zuliatu Cooper, Deputy Minister of Health and Public Sanitation looks on

Sierra Leone’s Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation Hon. Zuliatu Cooper emphasized: "We welcome the partnership we are establishing today with such a reputable and innovative company such as Merck. This will enable us to address the challenge of infertility in Sierra Leone which we have not been able to focus on before, especially that of creating awareness and empowering infertile women who suffer stigma and discrimination in silence.”

Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare interviews infertile women in Sierra Leone as Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp (left), Chairman of Executive Board and Family Board of E. Merck KG looks on

Through the ‘Empowering Berna’ project, "Merck More than a Mother” supports infertile women who can no longer be treated by establishing small businesses to empower them socially and economically in order to lead independent and happier lives.

"I don’t consider Merck More than a Mother a campaign anymore, it is a movement. Over 1,000 infertile women in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Liberia and Cote D’Ivoire who can no longer be treated have been empowered through the "Empowering Berna” project. Merck More than a Mother also provides training programmes for embryologists in Africa to improve access to cost effective and safe fertility care. In addition, it supports governments to define policies to regulate ART, address the need for interventions to break the stigma around infertile women and raise awareness about infertility prevention and male infertility and the necessity for a team approach to family building among couples,” Rasha Kelej declared.

Watch below video on the stories of infertile women from Liberia before and after they enrolled in "Merck More than a Mother” Program.

Watch below video as Hon. Julia Cassell, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection talks about the "Merck More than a Mother" programs in Liberia.

Watch below video as Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare and Hon. Sarah Opendi, Minister of State for Health, Uganda visit infertile women in Uganda.

Watch below video of the first two Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship candidates at Tata Memorial Hospital, India

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