My Dear Sisters, Your Excellencies African First Ladies,
Chairman of Merck Foundation– Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp. CEO of Merck Foundation- Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej
Distinguished Healthcare Providers, Policymakers and Media
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
This is a joyous and momentous moment for me and I dare to say all of us here gathered at this 9th Edition of “Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary” and as well to celebrate together the 5th Anniversary of Merck Foundation.
Let me start by renewing the consciousness of all of us that though we can speak of many nations where excellent work continue to be done in the fight against COVID-19, let me urge that we continue to be ever careful, and follow all the health protocols. As I did the last time we gathered, let me send a message of love and respect to Health Workers who are at the forefront of COVID-19 response – providing high quality, respectful treatment and care to all of us. Their sacrifices and sincere commitment are worth applauding as we thank God for all that they do to save lives and make our continent and world a better place.
So Today, as we gather physically and not via zoom, we celebrate while being ever mindful of the importance of our healthcare system and must double our efforts to advance and build its capacity to ensure that all our people have unfettered access to equitable and quality care when needed.
I am quite pleased to hear from my fellow Sisters about their programmatic journeys and the progress being made in their respective countries. Such provides us with the understanding of what is working and how collectively through the Merck Foundation, our continent and world is changing for the better.
In Liberia, we continue to overwhelmingly embrace Merck Foundation programs in a more contextualized way which has yielded great results in building the capacity, providing relevant training to our healthcare providers at all levels.
If I may take us down memory lane, the last time we convened, I reported to you that over 35 Liberian Doctors were undergoing specialty training which would result in the acquisition of Diplomas and Master degrees in many critical areas such as: Diabetes, Cardiovascular, Sexual and Reproductive Medicines, Endocrinology, Respiratory and Acute Medicines, Oncology and Fertility Specialists and Embryology training. Liberia again, is making history and I am proud to be that conduit to make this happen through the Merck Foundation.
Dr. Rasha Kelej, Liberia owes you and the Merck Foundation a debt of gratitude as we appreciate our partnership with Merck Foundation and acknowledge their smart and serious strategies to provide speciality training for our local doctors, even before this global crisis, so that they can provide the quality healthcare required by our people in the near future as Liberia continues to make great strides in building a robust healthcare system.
In fact, my dear Dr. Kelej, your love and commitment coupled with the outstanding interventions being made through the Merck Foundation continue to echo throughout Liberia and I am glad to serve as a conduit to make such achievable . Hence, on behalf of the good people of Liberia, we most respectfully invite you and the Merck Foundation to visit Liberia where you will be able to get a bird’s eye view of all that is transpiring as we seek your prayers and support for the construction of a State-of-the Art Health Facility that would provide Maternal and Infant care to a nation whose health system was literally destroyed during the years of civil war. Such a facility is urgently needed and we need your response in the affirmative.
As the Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother in Liberia, we are the torchbearer of the programs of the Merck Foundation which seeks to empower infertile women through access to information, education, health and the imminent change of mind-sets. Moreover to empower our girls in education through Merck Foundation’s program “Educating Linda. “We embrace same wholeheartedly.
We continue to educate girls about their personal sanitation and I am particularly thankful to Merck Foundation and my dear sister Dr. Rasha Kelej for providing Sanitary Napkin Production Machine and raw materials, under my office’s “She’s You Menstrual and Personal Hygiene Initiative ” and “Educating Linda” program that I launched in Liberia last year. Through this, we will be able to provide thousands of good quality Sanitary pads to our schoolgirls, ensuring good menstrual hygiene for them so they can continue their education .This program will prove very beneficial for our girls and their empowerment through education, and I am very passionate about this initiative.
Also, as a part of “Educating Linda” Program and my office’s “Back to School Program”, we recently distributed 3000 essential school items to school girls. This, I must tell you, brought sustained smiles to the faces, to not only the students, but an outburst of unceasing jubilation to parents, school administrators and teachers. This will be followed by the awarding of scholarships to 20 underprivileged but brilliant girls to continue their school education. I am convinced that if you educate a girl, she will indeed, change the world.
Liberia and Liberians suffered a prolonged brutal civil war that spanned a decade and a half. It divided the country terribly and saw over 250,000 lives senselessly lost. Today, Liberia and Liberians can boast of a peaceful nation now for more than a decade. However, in finding moments of reconciliation amongst a people bitterly divided, Liberians have held on to a part of the lyrics of our National Anthem that says: “In union strong, success is sure, we cannot fail.”
Dear esteemed Sisters, I am proud to underscore my partnership with your Excellences First Ladies, to work together, a spirit of collectivism, a united front to make a significant impact in our countries and the whole world through our strong platform, Merck Foundation First Ladies’ Initiative, an initiative I now refer to as a ‘Union Strong’ Initiative. It is our role as First Ladies to establish such strong and long term partnerships with thoughtful organizations such as Merck Foundation and to capitalize on this opportunity to improve access to quality and equitable healthcare solutions for our communities.
In Liberia, the Clar Hope Foundation works in tandem with the Merck Foundation and together, we continue to seek wholesome approaches in reaching out to all without discriminatory. Our efforts continue to embrace all including those who are physically challenged and visually impaired. We continue to provide donations to support the livelihood of our physically challenged.
Salome, a Ugandan feminist and activist puts it this way: It’s the little things citizens do. That’s what will make the difference.”
What we as First Ladies through the Merck Foundation do in our respective countries for our people are the things that continue to make the difference and I am proud to be an active part of this great movement.
As I offer sincere thanks and appreciation to the Merck Foundation on behalf of the government and people of Liberia led by His Excellency George Manneh Weah, my husband, I want to just add that Liberia is a wonderful nation that has brilliantly shining examples that it has indeed risen from the valley of despair and now stands buoyantly, welcoming all to invest in a nation so richly endowed.
I am very happy to be a part of this unique gathering. May God bless us all!!