Two Plus Two Equals Four!!!

My water broke around 3:30 that Sunday afternoon. Since I’d been in ‘barely there’ labor since 9 in the morning, everything was ready and already by the door. I quickly put on the blue dress that boyfriend was ironing at the time and we rushed out...

Modern Mom Can't Cook

The food had just started boiling when I heard a knock on the door. My pocket was hurting that day; I only had 4 shillings to my name. Not one to despair, I was contented working with what I had – rice, potatoes and an onion. Without the tomatoes to at least add some color, I was prepared to have some very bland lunch. But it was ok, ...

Biggest Baby Expenses and How to Save on Them

Though the spending on the new baby is inevitable, there are steps you can take to ensure that you keep the costs at a minimum. In this post, we look at the biggest baby expenses and how to save on them ...

I am Selfish

There’s a long hoot and I’m screaming his name at the top of my lungs. In that split second, I see my life come to an end. I see myself losing my best friend barely two days after his coming home. I see him robbed of life right before my very eyes...

I'm Home at the Candy Shop

Essentials greets you as you enter. Though on the first floor, it is the first thing that draws your eyes as you walk in. There’s something about kids' stuff that just whispers to you; especially when you are a parent. Without the pressure of shopping and a baby tagging at my skirt telling me that she wants this or that, I felt like I was in a candy store. And I sort of was.

Dealing with Unwarranted Parenting Advice

Being different is ok. We are all special in one way or another. This memo, however, did not get to the perfection bullies. When your child is a little different, they’ll make it their business to tell you what you probably did wrong to end up where you are, and come up with so many solutions to your problem your head will spin.

Melina's Messy Updo

A messy updo comes in handy when I need to do a simple hairstyle in little to no time. I have found that it works best on freshly washed hair as the curls are more defined then. You do not even have to comb it. Just shampoo, condition, moisturize, oil and style :-)

Of Housegirls and Parenting

She called early Sunday morning telling me that she was in town but when I went to get her, my calls went unanswered. Thirty missed calls later, I could not reach her. Thinking that her phone must have run out of charge, I now had the hectic task of looking for her in a crowded town via footsteps the way it used to be done like 3 presidents ago ...

Goodbye Ceskycess. Hello, Modern Mom.

When I started blogging, I had no idea what I wanted to say. I therefore wrote some really pathetic posts and prayed that no one would ever read them. A few months later, a love interest did some stalking, found my blog and read the half-baked posts. To please me (I think), he praised and gushed my writing.

The Silent Force that Positively Impacts African Lives

Dr. Rasha Kelej is the Chief Social Officer (CSO), Global Vice President of Merck Healthcare. Currently she is also a member of Human Resources Science and Technology Cluster of African Union (ECOSOCC).

Rasha Kelej at Merck more than a Mother launch Nigeria

She is a pharmacist, a speaker, women’s rights activist, a professional and dedicated businesswoman who has gained international recognition through hard work and received many awards for women leadership excellence and for her contribution to women empowerment.

She hails from Egypt and enrolled at the Alexandria University with a B.Sc. Ph Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (1989-1994). MBA from Robert Gordon University, U.K.  on "Corporate Social Responsibility- CSR  integration with business strategy".

Rasha has 22 years’ experience in the international pharma industry specializing in the biotechnology field. Over the past four years she has been able to create and achieve the following:

Rasha Kelej in Nigeria

Merck More Than a Mother” which is aimed at eradicating stigmatization on infertile women and empowering them to live better lives.

“Merck More Than a Patient” which aims to uplift women cancer survivors to reclaim their lives and become active contributors to the economy.

Merck African Oncology with the aim to increase the limited number of oncologists in Africa and hence improve access to cancer care.

Merck Capacity Advancement Program that seeks to improve access to innovative healthcare solutions and to build healthcare and life science research capacity focusing on NCDs such as Diabetes, Hypertension, fertility and Oncology.

UNESCO Merck Africa Research Summit to empower Youth and Women in Research and build research capacity in Africa.

Rasha has received many awards to recognize her contribution towards empowering African women in the field of Research and Healthcare and empowering underprivileged women who lived with infertility and women cancer survivors.

Rasha strives daily to impact excellence in healthcare contribution to humanity; she serves on the board of several organizations and social initiatives.

Until we see each other again, 

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A hidden killer in your diet

If we were to follow advise from all the studies and researches that have been done, we'd never breath or eat anything ever again.

Image source: Pixabay
You've been told again and again to always take a balanced diet. You also know that animal proteins help in building and repairing muscles and body tissues. But did you know that meat can kill you? Turns out it can.

According to a recent study, a meaty diet increases the risk of heart failure in post-menopausal women. For a period of 5 years, data from the daily diet diaries of over 100,000 women aged 50-79 years was analyzed. In addition to the self-reported information, the scientists also used a urine biomarker test to determine the dietary protein the body.

The results indicated that higher calibrated total dietary meat protein intake appeared to be associated with substantially increased risk of heart failure. Vegetable protein intake, however, appeared to be protective. Other factors such as age, educational level, diabetes, ethnicity, artery disease, high blood pressure and irregular heart rhythm did not alter the results.

Similar studies have also shown an association between increased meat protein association and cardiovascular disease risk in women. Additional studies are however needed to further explore this potential association.

Until we see each other again, 

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Merck announces their Diabetes Award 2016 Winners to mark World Diabetes Day

  • Merck kicks off their social media campaign to raise awareness about diabetes early detection and prevention as part of Merck Capacity Advancement Program - CAP
  • Merck Diabetes Award aims to build diabetes experts platform in partnership with African and Asian universities.

Merck marks today the World Diabetes Day themed ‘Eyes on diabetes’ with the announcement of the 2016 “Merck Diabetes Award” winners drawn from African and Asian universities. The award as part of the Merck Capacity Advancement Program was launched in April 2016 in partnership with African and Asian universities with the aim of building a platform of diabetes experts across the globe.

"Merck plays an important role in building Diabetes Care capacity in partnership with African and Asian Universities. Today marks an important day in the fight against Diabetes as we celebrate World Diabetes Day. In this context, we have announced ten Diabetes Award Winners" says Belen Garijo, Member of Merck's Executive Board and CEO Merck Healthcare. “This initiative fully illustrates our commitment to improving access to affordable Healthcare in Africa and other developing countries “Garijo added.

Sana Laraib Daud and Zoubia Fathima from United Arab Emirates receive
their awards from Belen Garijo, CEO, Merck Healthcare

The scientific committee received over 500 concept submission applications from universities in Africa and Asia and 10 winners were selected for the award. The winner from each university has been granted a one year postgraduate diabetes diploma in South Wales University, United Kingdom.

Merck invited all medical students to apply for the “Merck Diabetes Award” 2016 with the theme "Every day is a Diabetes Day". Students across African and Asian medical universities were asked to submit a concept paper on how to improve diabetes early detection and prevention in their countries and how to encourage their society, scientific community, local authorities, media and relevant stakeholders to think and act on diabetes every day.

“Merck Diabetes Award” marks another step in our long term commitment to support diabetes care strategy through working with local governments, academia and relevant stakeholders in building healthcare capacity with a focus on Diabetes, Hypertension and other  non-communicable diseases in various countries in Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Africa and Latin America,” said Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare when making the announcement of the winners.

Ahmed Reja, the President of International Diabetes Federation, Africa and President of Ethiopia Diabetes Association emphasized: “We are very happy to partner with Merck to drive their strategy to build diabetes capacity and roll out the Merck Diabetes Award across the continent. The awards encourage the students to be more innovative and take a leadership position to fight diabetes in their own country.”

Medical students’ testimonies on the Merck Capacity Advancement Program

European Accredited Clinical Diabetes and Hypertension Program

In addition, as part of its recognition of the World Diabetes Day, the Merck Capacity Advancement Program also launched its European Accredited Clinical Diabetes and Hypertension management 2016 tour across Africa and Asia. The program supports focused training to build diabetes healthcare capacity for medical undergraduates, postgraduates and healthcare providers in partnership with universities across the two continents.

More than 5,000 medical undergraduates have benefited from the fourth edition of the Merck Capacity Advancement Program which covered eight African countries and is in partnership with Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia; University of Nairobi, Kenya; Makerere University, Uganda; Muhimbili University, Tanzania; University of Ghana; University of Namibia; Eduardo Mondelane University in Mozambique and Agostinho Neto  University, Angola. In Asia the tours are being conducted with Maharashtra University, India and University of Indonesia.

Merck Capacity Advancement Program’s European Accredited Clinical and
Hypertension Program session at the University of Nairobi, Kenya

Merck Capacity Advancement Program’s European Accredited Clinical and
Hypertension Program session at the University of Indonesia

Merck Capacity Advancement Program’s European Accredited Clinical and
Hypertension Program session at the
Maharashtra University, India


In addition to building capacity among healthcare professionals to provide quality diabetes care, Merck runs a social media campaign providing diabetes patient education through videos and information materials in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and many local languages focusing on diabetes early symptoms and complications to raise awareness on diabetes and the importance of early detection and prevention among communities.

Merck Capacity Advancement Program social media

Visit for more information

Watch the below videos of diabetes patients from India, Indonesia and Africa sharing their experience with diabetes.



Watch the below videos of Diabetes Patients Awareness videos #MerckDiabetesTips symptoms and complications in English, French, Portuguese and local languages

Meet the winners of Merck Diabetes Award 2016 from African and Asian universities

Elisha Kipkemoi Ngetich 
College of Health Sciences, University of Nairobi, Kenya

“I am ecstatic at winning the Merck Diabetes Award 2016. I thank Merck for providing this wonderful platform where students can further their studies in non-communicable diseases. With the current surge in the prevalence of diabetes in Kenya and other developing countries, the timing of this award could not have been better. Over the years, I have developed an interest in diabetes because I have seen patients in the different stages of this disease. I have also seen the impact that early recognition and management of this disease can have and I am privileged to broaden my understanding of the disease through this postgraduate diploma course. This will also build me academically and professionally as well. This is the kind of initiative that Kenya and Africa at large needs, an initiative to empower young doctors and other healthcare professionals. This information then trickles down to the patients and ultimately we end up with a healthy Kenya and Africa. I am convinced that the knowledge I will gather during this experience will significantly impact on my practice in the near future and hence a better outcome for our diabetic patients.”

Ralph Obure
College of Health Sciences, University of Nairobi, Kenya

“The Kenyan healthcare system faces new challenges in diabetes and other non-communicable diseases and so efforts by Merck to increase capacity are timely and highly welcome. I am honoured to receive the Merck Diabetes Award that will advance my medical career and enable me to provide the much needed expertise in diabetes management in Kenya.”

Antara Bagchi
Indira Gandhi Government Medical College, Nagpur, India

“Merck is providing an opportunity for the care and control of diabetes in the community especially in Asia and Africa, where non-communicable diseases are becoming increasingly prevalent. The Merck Capacity Advancement Programme is a ground-breaking initiative to control this rampant and growing epidemic of NCDs like diabetes, by motivating and sensitising undergraduate students like us, and giving them a chance to gain an in-depth, holistic knowledge about every aspect of this disease. I am sure that this initiative will have a profound impact on the health scenario, and the incidence and morbidity of NCDs will be lowered significantly.”

Samuel Mucheru
Aga Khan University, Kenya

 “This award is important to me because it marks the start of a future career in diabetes management which I am very passionate about. It will help build diabetes expertise in my country, which is badly needed due to the exponential increase in diabetes cases within the population. Moreover, it will help achieve the wider goal of building capacity in diabetes management especially in the low and middle income countries whose non-communicable disease burden is on an upward trend without a commensurate increase in the number of experts to deal with this pandemic.”

Tinka George
Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Uganda

“I am grateful and happy that Merck has provided us with this great opportunity to advance our knowledge in diabetes. This opportunity of increasing the number of diabetes specialists will step up efforts in the fight against this 'silent killer', especially here in Africa where the burden of the disease is skyrocketing day and night. This will help save many lives.”

Gloria Ani-asamoah
Accra, Ghana

“It is a privilege to acquire current knowledge in the management of diabetes. It is my hope that at the end of this course l will be a better advocate in diabetes prevention and offer comprehensive diabetes care. The time is now to curb the menace of disease.”

Nujood Al Shirawi
Intern, Dubai Health Authority, United Arab Emirates

“Diabetes is a lifelong illness which affects the lives of more than 14% adults in UAE. With such a high percentage, everybody in the UAE knows individuals battling diabetes. I am grateful to Merck and Dubai Medical College for enabling the young doctors in the region to participate in such a program where a platform has been created for exchange of knowledge between national and international experts. I am looking forward to the diabetes diploma and believe it will add to my existing knowledge and help develop my understanding of this illness which affects nearly every organ in the body. It was a wonderful experience to be part of this award and I would encourage all my colleagues to participate in any future events.”

Najmah Kuddah
General Practitioner, University of Indonesia, Indonesia

“Indonesia is the fifth largest population with diabetes, yet 73.7% is undiagnosed because of lack of awareness. One of them could be someone we love. This award means everything to me, so I can do something for my family, people and my country”.

Dominic Oduro-Donkor
Cape Coast Teaching Hospital, Ghana

“In Ghana many people do not have access to healthcare services in order to identify, diagnose and treat diabetes and its complications. It is essential to achieve adequate diabetes care as the number of people living with the condition continues to escalate. There is also a need to commit resources to diabetes education across Ghana and the African continent at large. Until this happens large numbers of people will end up experiencing potentially preventable diabetes-related complications such as blindness, kidney failure and amputation.

The reason why this award is important to me is because Merck has given me an opportunity to take my trade outside the consulting room and making it possible for me to help more people, to make my voice louder and to help those who can’t help themselves.

Access to diabetic care in Africa will slowly grow with the initiation of this award, because it will create ‘diabetes scholars’ who will have more insight and knowledge on the best care needed for patients and how to facilitate it. Together, our voices will resonate the need for change and improved management strategies, which will change the face of diabetes care in Africa. The mobilization of professionals across the continent of Africa is the first step in forming a platform where ideas can be put across and shared to make diabetic care easily accessible.”

Ken Munene Nkonge
University of Nairobi, Kenya

“Similar to other countries in Africa, majority of people living with diabetes in Kenya are diagnosed late, when the options available for preventing complications of the disease are few and suboptimal. I strongly believe that community-based preventative measures alongside early diagnosis and management of prediabetes and related comorbidities such as obesity and hypertension are essential to reducing the burden of type 2 diabetes on Kenya’s health care system. The Merck Diabetes Award is important to me because it will empower me with the knowledge and skills needed to make this belief a reality across Kenya. As the recipient of this award, I look forward to this amazing opportunity.”

About the Merck Capacity Advancement Program (CAP)

Merck CAP is a 5-year program aiming to expand the professional capacity in developing countries in the areas of research and development, advocacy building, supply-chain integrity and efficiency, pharmacovigilance, medical education, and community awareness. It was established in 2012.

As part of the CAP, more than 17,000 medical students from Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Uganda in addition to Asian universities such as Maharashtra University, India and University of Indonesia have benefited from this program and we aim to reach 25,000 by 2018.
Until we see each other again, 

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Weight Gain Over Time Increases Risk of Cancer by up to 50%

A research has shown that adding weight over a number of years increases the risk of getting obesity-related cancers by 20% in women and by 50% in men. The study monitored 300,000 Americans between ages 18 and 65 trying to find the link between obesity and cancer.

Image Source
During the study, some people added a little weight while others added a great deal of it. The participants were then followed an average of 15 years while cancer rates were recorded.

The study found that being overweight increased the risk of obesity related cancers such as womb and ovarian in women, as well as bowel, breast and pancreas in both men and women. Compared to the participants who remained in the healthy weight range, men whose BMI increased from 22 to 27 had a 50% increased risk while the women whose BMI increased from 23 to 32 had a 17% increased risk of developing these cancers.

It is therefore more important to look at the weight gain over a person's lifetime when assessing the cancer risk as compared to checking their BMI at any single point, stated the lead scientist of the study, Dr Hannah Lennon, University of Manchester.

As much as it is not a guarantee against cancer, maintaining a healthy weight through a healthy lifestyle sure stacks the odds in anyone's favor, not to mention the other numerous health benefits that comes with it.

Until we see each other again, 

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“Merck More than a Mother” addresses infertility challenges and solutions in Africa in partnership with International Federation Fertility Societies (IFFS)

  • “Merck More than a Mother” engages policy makers and healthcare providers to define interventions to address infertility prevention and management in Africa
  • Define policies to regulate ART in Africa starting with Kenya, Uganda  and Nigeria 
  • Empowering of infertile women socially and economically through “Empowering Berna” Project.
"Merck More than a Mother" in partnership with the International Federation of Fertility Societies- IFFS conducted a high level panel addressed infertility challenges and solutions in Africa at the opening ceremony of the World Congress of (IFFS) held in New Delhi, India. The high level panel of ministers, parliamentarians and global fertility experts from IFFS and Africa Fertility Society highlighted lack of access to regulated fertility care and awareness about infertility management and widespread stigma of infertile women as some of the key challenges in Africa.

The panel called for increased efforts to improve access to regulated fertility care through the development of artificial reproductive therapy (ART) laws and regulations and to empower infertile women through access to education and information   They also supported the training of African embryologists and discussed different interventions to remove the infertility stigma and create a culture shift and change of mindset.

Watch this video for a summary of the high level panel discussion on infertility challenges and solutions in Africa

The high level panel including Hon. Sarah Opendi, Minister of Health, Uganda; Hon. Betty Amongi, Uganda’s Minister of Lands Housing and Urban Development and Chair of Uganda Women Parliamentarian Association; Hon. Julia Duncan-Cassell, Minister of Gender, Liberia; Hon. Joyce Lay, Member of Parliament, Kenya; Dr. Patrick Amoth, Senior Deputy Director of Medical Services, Ministry of Health, Kenya; Dr. Joe Leigh Simpson, Former President of International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS); Dr. Richard Kennedy, President of IFFS; Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, President of Africa Fertility Society; Dr. James Olobo-Lalobo, Vice-President of Africa Fertility Society, Uganda and Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare supported the implementation of “Merck More than a Mother’s” strategic objectives and interventions across Africa.

To read more about

Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer Merck Healthcare

“The aim of “Merck More than a Mother” is to empower infertile women in Africa through improving access to education, information and health and change of mind-set and in case they cannot be treated the campaign is empowering them economically and socially through “Empowering Berna” Project so that they can be independent and re-build their own lives,” said Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

Hon. Sarah Opendi, the Minister of Health, Uganda.

 “In Uganda, between 15-20% of couples fail to conceive. The number of fertility clinics in the country to address this problem are few and expensive. Together with “Merck More than a Mother” in Uganda we are creating awareness that infertility can be prevented and that to improve access, fertility care can be integrated into the already existing public reproductive healthcare services which will be cost effective as the infrastructure is already there. In addition we are building a hospital for Women Health where we will dedicate an IVF center to provide couples with affordable and effective treatment with the support of Merck to train the future staff,” said Hon. Sarah Opendi, the Minister of Health, Uganda.

Hon. Joyce Lay, Member of Parliament, Kenya.

“In our culture, a woman is always blamed for infertility. She carry’s the shame, embarrassment and tears in private. We need to create awareness by providing information and education on infertility so that both men and women can talk about it. “Merck More than a Mother” campaign has opened discussions on infertility and is talking about solutions and interventions available,” said Hon. Joyce Lay, Member of Parliament, Kenya.

Hon. Julia Duncan-Cassell, Minister of Gender, Liberia

 At the meeting Merck showed a few videos of African infertile women who shared their stories of suffering due to failing to have children and their transformation after meeting Merck more than a Mother team who helped empower them socially and economically.

Watch the story of Grace Kambini

Watch the story of Jackline Mwende

Speaking on the need to create a culture shift, Hon. Julia Duncan Cassell, Minister of Gender, and Liberia said: “We should look at a woman as more than a mother. It is not always the fault of the woman when there is no child, but in our culture it is. We need to speak out as both men and women can be affected by infertility. Violence and stigma against infertile women should not be tolerated. We need to change our culture, tradition, attitude and mind-set. These can be modified and changed. We hope the “Merck More than a Mother” initiative can be extended to other African countries so that awareness can increase and know that infertility can be caused by many factors and that with the right information it can be prevented.”

Hon. Betty Amongi Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Uganda.

 “In the African culture, marriage gives a woman the right to property and land. When they don’t bear children they are disinherited and when they go back home there is also nothing for them. Therefore, empowering infertile women economically and socially as “Merck More than a Mother” is doing is important because most of them have nowhere to go. This enables them to sustain themselves and with the information they are given they become change agents in their communities,” said Hon. Betty Amongi, Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Uganda.

Prof. Joe Leigh Simpson, former President, IFFS.

Prof. Joe Leigh Simpson, President of IFFS supported the need and importance of building fertility care capacity in Africa. “We in high resource countries have an obligation to provide education, service and translate in the shortest period of time the advances that are being made in our labs to middle and low resource countries”.

Prof Richard Kennedy, President, IFFS.

“IFFS has an important role to support “Merck More than a Mother”. We agree that education is essential and that we will support the education and training initiatives necessary in Africa to develop capacity for infertility treatment,” said Prof Richard Kennedy, President elect of IFFS.

Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, President Africa Fertility Society.

“In Nigeria people who come into our clinics are afraid because they don’t want people to know they are taking fertility treatment. In most of these cases only women seek treatment for infertility and not the men. People prefer to seek help elsewhere and by the time they come for medical help it is too late. We are happy that “Merck More than a Mother” campaign is being launched in Nigeria and in Africa to create a culture shift that will enable people to seek proper treatment for infertility and that there is respect for womanhood than motherhood,” emphasized Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, President Africa Fertility Society.

Dr Patrick Amoth Senior Deputy Director of Medical Services, Ministry of Health Kenya

Dr. Patrick Amoth, Senior Deputy Director of Medical Services, Ministry of Health Kenya pledged support for the work that “Merck More than a Mother” is doing in Kenya. “The Ministry will play a key role in developing policy and guidelines to implement the ART law to ensure standards and regulations are maintained to protect couples seeking fertility treatment from exploitation,” he emphasized.

Watch this video for a long version of the high level panel discussion on infertility challenges and solutions in Africa 

 The high level panel (left to right) Dr. Patrick Amoth, Senior Deputy Director of Medical Services, Ministry of Health, Kenya; Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, President of Africa Fertility Society; Hon. Joyce Lay, Member of Parliament, Kenya; Dr. Richard Kennedy, President, IFFS; Hon. Sarah Opendi, Minister of Health, Uganda; Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare; Hon. Betty Amongi, Uganda’s Minister of Lands Housing and Urban Development and Chair of Uganda Women Parliamentarian Association; Prof. Joe Leigh Simpson, former President, IFFS; Hon. Julia Duncan-Cassell, Minister of Gender, Liberia and Dr. James Olobo-Lalobo, Vice-President of Africa Fertility Society

At the World Congress of IFFS, 2000 world fertility experts

Until we see each other again, 

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On the long road to improving cancer care in Africa, training dedicated cancer specialists is the first step

By Rasha Kelej

Did you know that the number of practicing oncologists barely hits double digits in most African nations? In fact, there are only 13 oncologists in Kenya (all based in Nairobi) for a population of 47 million – that’s one oncologist per 3.6 million people. It’s even worse in Ethiopia, where a population of more than 100 million is served by just four oncologists in Addis Ababa (you don’t need me to do the math). For perspective, consider that there is one oncologist for every 75,000 or so people in the UK.

We learnt all this after extensive research into the challenges of access to cancer care in sub-Saharan Africa and it made us realize that the first priority in most sub-Saharan African countries should be to increase the number of oncologists, before discussing investment in infrastructure or drug donations.

To that end, Merck KGaA has joined forces with the University of Nairobi to launch a medical oncology fellowship program that provides specialist cancer training to doctors in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s part of the Merck Cancer Access Program, which launched in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania at the beginning of 2015, and will fund nine doctors with an advanced degree in internal medicine to take part in a two-year fellowship program at the University of Nairobi. Merck is also sponsoring another five doctors from sub-Saharan Africa to train at Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, India, in pediatric and adult medical oncology.

In Africa, the lack of financial resources is never the only challenge. It is sobering to consider that many countries in sub-Saharan Africa have no radiotherapy facilities, especially given that as many as 50 percent of patients with cancer would be expected to benefit from radiotherapy as part of their treatment. But the real bottleneck is the scarcity of trained healthcare personnel capable of tackling prevention, early diagnosis, and management of cancer. For example, when we started our work with the University of Addis Ababa, we soon found that the University needed to expand its oncology set-up – it was the only cancer center in the country, after all. Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health has offered them expansion into a new four-story building for patient chemotherapy – a great opportunity, but with so few trained specialists, it is difficult for the center to take full advantage.

A growing problem

Cancer is set to be a huge economic and social burden on Africa. By 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO)  predicts there will be 16 million new cases of cancer every year, 70 percent of which will be in developing countries, where governments are least prepared to address growing cancer rates and where survival rates are often less than half those of more developed countries. The numbers represent a massive challenge for African nations, whose healthcare systems are largely built to tackle a very different mix of diseases.

Building professional capacity takes a long time but the long-term impact is significant, so I firmly believe that “now” is the right time to start this movement for change. I prefer to use the term “movement” rather than program or initiative because, if applied successfully, it will change the cancer care landscape all over Africa. We have now overcome logistical hurdles to find eligible candidates and develop the program in two locations – University of Nairobi and Tata Memorial Hospital. The two programs target African doctors from all over Sub-Saharan Africa, and we have ensured that after graduation every candidate will be able to practice in his or her own country and in the public sector, so that we can achieve our goal to improve access to cancer care for under-served patients.

We have received applications for the fellowship from many African countries, including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and South Africa. The scientific committee has selected eligible candidates holding a Master’s degree in internal medicine for the University of Nairobi program, and pediatricians for the medical oncology fellowship in India. According to WHO, 30 percent of cancer cases can be prevented, and another 30 percent will respond to basic treatment if detected early, so having trained experts will provide great support.

A fight on many fronts

Africa is an important region for Merck and we have a number of other initiatives ongoing to help cancer patients in the continent. We will shortly launch our “Merck More than a Patient” campaign, which aims to empower female cancer survivors in Africa; it helps them to establish small businesses so that they can generate a good monthly income to support themselves and take a full role in society. The new campaign follows on from our “Merck More than a Mother” campaign, which we hope will help infertile African women, who often face stigma and social isolation.

Clearly, cancer is not the only problem facing African healthcare systems. But by running campaigns that target the common risk factors behind several non-communicable diseases, such as tobacco use, alcohol abuse, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity, we can cost-effectively target cancer alongside other diseases on the rise in the region, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

In reality, even with more oncologists and better treatment, cancer isn’t always curable, so there is a need to make palliative medicines available at affordable prices. Without access to palliation, most cancer patients in Africa would die in severe pain – an important humanitarian element for cancer care on the continent.

Students from African universities at a Merck Cancer Control Program

Rasha Kelej (right) and Ugandan Minister of Health Sarah Opendi (center) with patients at a Merck combined cancer and diabetes campaign.

All hands on deck

I firmly believe that the only way to effectively prevent, detect, and treat the rising number of cancer cases in Africa is through public–private partnership models that involve health ministries, NGOs, academia, patient associations, and industry.
The size and complexity of the task is so great that no single organization or institution can manage on its own, so integration of efforts is vital to achieve the health gains that our citizens deserve. I believe that prevention is better than cure, so awareness-raising and education will play a big part in any campaign to reduce death rates, but we also need to improve access to basic cancer treatment and palliative care. By partnering with ministries of health and universities in Africa to implement our Cancer Access Program, we hope to rapidly achieve our objective of advancing cancer healthcare capacities and reducing the socioeconomic burden of the disease. Now is the time to take action, and we hope other companies will join us in supporting healthcare systems in Africa as they face this emerging challenge. Rasha Kelej is Chief Social Officer for Merck Healthcare.

The Human Element

We spoke with Isaac O. Kibwage, Professor and Principal of the College of Health Sciences, University of Nairobi, to get his view on the partnership with Merck and the future of cancer care in Kenya.

How did you become involved with the fellowship program?

Rasha and I were speaking about emerging diseases that are increasingly impacting Kenya. One of the diseases that our government is already taking urgent steps to address is cancer, with investment into better facilities and access to care. We discussed our plans for training oncology specialists and Rasha raised the possibility of Merck joining us in the venture. Now, we have formalized the partnership, with Merck providing funding for students from Kenya and other African nations to take part in an oncology fellowship program here at the university.

How did you decide where to focus your efforts?

You have to start with the human element. Even if you have adequate equipment and drugs, if there are no specialists to diagnose people or oversee their treatment, you won’t get far. The lack of oncologists in Kenya has led to two key problems; first, the quality of diagnosis is very low, and second, patients cannot access specialist care, especially outside of the main cities. If we can train enough oncologists to provide high-quality cancer care around the country, we will be able to help our own citizens, and even welcome medical tourists from elsewhere in the region.
To take part in the fellowship at University of Nairobi, candidates must already be internal medicine specialists, as the need is urgent and these students will be the fastest to train.

Why are cancer rates going up in Africa?

Cancer cases are increasing all the time. We speculate that this relates to changes in lifestyle – we are more sedentary, eat more refined food, and have more environmental pollution than our ancestors. Also, more cases are identified as better diagnosis becomes available.

Why are there so few oncologists in Africa?

Historically, cancer has been less common, so there was limited demand. In addition, some doctors have told me that the high mortality and morbidity rates made it a less appealing area, as even specialists could do little to help patients. Now that we have the means to treat and even cure some cancers, there are more doctors gravitating towards the field, but training opportunities have been scarce.

*The author has given permission to use the article as is for publishing on your website/blog.

Until we see each other again, 

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Baby Shop Offer on Jumia Kenya 

With just a about a week remaining to the Black Friday Sale on Jumia Kenya, we can already start seeing some huge bargains on different categories in preparation for the biggest sale of the year.

One such sale is the babyshop deal wich brings you 20% discount on basic baby products like starter sets, car seats, toys, gift sets, feeding accessories and more.

If you are in Nairobi, your order will even be delivered to you wherever you are free of charge.

This week only, enjoy the packages of love and care for 20% off

Until we see each other again, 

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FREE P&G Household Training Academy for your nanny

We get most of our nannies straight from the upcountry and they have no idea what is expected of them.It is difficult for us to train them when we also lack in the housekeeping sector. This is where P&G comes in. They offer your nanny free household training absolutely free of charge.
Housekeeping Academy

If you are in Nairobi, the classes are being offered in the following venues and dates:
  1. South B – Hazina Estate – Court 10 House number M42 (11th – 22nd October)
  2. Thome – The Nest place – Garden estate road 400m from Thika super highway (25th October – 5th November)
  3. Westlands – Near Toyota Kenya off Church Road – Westlands Court House Number 40 (8th - 19th November)
  4. Loresho – 162 Loresho crescent – First Gate on your right (22nd November – 3rd December)
You can either attend the morning session between 9am and 1 pm, or the evening session between 2 and 5 pm.

Register here or call 0796 088997 for inquiries.

Until we see each other again, 

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DIY: How to Make a Bandana Bib in 20 Minutes

Amelie is my 10 weeks old baby. Her name is not really Amelie, but her African name means a hard working girl. Amelie, a Latin name meaning hard worker, will therefore be her name in this blog.

She's been drooling like a Komodo Dragon lately, I just can't keep up with the number of bibs she uses in a day. Let her stay wet around her neck for a few minutes and you'll have a nasty rash to deal with. No one wants that? So, what is a mom to do? She can go out and buy hundreds of bibs, but if she is as crafty and innovative like I am, she will recycle her old tees or dresses into the cutest bandana bibs.

Here's how I went about it...

What you need:

  1. A recycled fabric. It needs to be absorbent. The more vibrant the colors, the better.
  2. Needle and thread
  3. A number of buttons
  4. Basic stitching skills. 
  5. Scissors
  6. A few minutes


  1. Cut your fabric into 10"-12" squares.  It does not have to be perfect.
  2. Fold one square diagonally with the wrong side of the fabric facing out
  3. Make back or running stitches leaving a small section at one corner as shown below. Back stitches are stronger, but tiny running stitches will also do
  4. Using the hole at the corner with no stitches, turn the fabric inside out. Now the right side will be facing out
  5. Close the hole at the corner with a hemming stitch
  6. Fold the ends as shown below, making a button hole on one end and sewing on a button on the other.
  7. Done
This project had me so excited I made 10 of these. I'm glad I got to reuse what was once a dress. It's kept me busy and happy, the baby is happy and the environment is definitely happy. Everyone wins.:-) :-)

Until we see each other again, 

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"Merck more than a Mother" launches in Nigeria

Merck Launches “Merck More Than a Mother” Championed by H.E. First Lady of Nigeria in partnership with Senate Committee of Health, Nigeria Ministry of Health,Africa Fertility Society and Future Assured foundation.

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He's a Good Girl!

She’s detail oriented, describes people by what they're wearing or their hairstyles; especially their hairstyles. One day someone pulled her by her hair in the school bus. She was crying when she alighted. I’d never seen her cry that hard. She kept demonstrating how the person did it. And it looked really bad! The way she did it, I was surprised she still had her scalp intact. At the time, I did not know that she was exaggerating. I know better now. She does that often. It adds drama. And everyone likes a little drama.

Source: Pixabay
I was hysterical! I wanted to know the person who’d done it. Was it a teacher? No. Was it another kid? No. And it was neither the driver nor his conductor. I called the driver. I wanted the bus stopped.  I would storm in there and she'd point to the person. The driver did not pick up. I then called the school and went a little crazy on the lady on the other side of the line. She apologized not really knowing what she was apologizing for. I requested her to get back to me as soon as they found the perpetrator before calling her dad. The whole time she was beside me wailing uncontrollably.

When she composed herself enough to speak, she tried explaining who it was but I had a hard time understanding whether it was a fellow pupil or an adult, a female or a male. The person’s head was shaved. This she really emphasized. And the person was seated next to Farajoy (Fara Joy? I don’t know). She talks about this Farajoy a lot. They do a lot together; eat her snacks, sit next to each other in the bus, and I’m even informed when Farajoy misses school. From what she tells me, Farajoy is not in her class and she’s a little older. ‘So she’s your friend?’ I ask. ‘No, she’s my sister.’

I do not try to argue with that. I know the girl must be special for my child to know her by name. Other than her classmates and her teacher (whom she called teacher cucu for the first week), the only other person she knows by name is this sister of hers. Our conversations in the evening are normally bizarre. ‘Did you eat all the grapes by yourself?’ I’ll ask. ‘No, I ate with my friends in the bus,’ she’ll say. ‘And what are the names of your friends?’ ‘I don’t know them,’ she’ll reply. 'Them’ referring to the friends, and  not the names.

Back to the person with the shaved head, I asked her, ‘Was this person wearing any uniform?’ She said, no. The person was in a red top. ‘Was it a boy or a girl? She said it was a boy. This information was not helpful for two reasons. First it was Friday and therefore a games day. A red top could have been a games T-shirt for all I knew and secondly, the fact that she said it was a boy meant nothing at all. A boy to her is any male from an infant to a 90 year old man.

But I had not considered a third possibility. One I learnt about the other day and that reminded me about the complexity that is a child’s brain…

She’s taking her evening porridge and I’m on the couch nursing the little one and minding my own business when she turns to me and says, ‘Mommy, do you know that Kimberly’s dad came to school today?’
‘No,’ I reply, ‘I did not know that, but do tell.’
‘Yes he did. And God gave him hair!’ she continues.
‘What makes you say that?’
‘Because he has hair that is styled like this and like this,’ she explains while showing me what she means using her hand. 'Oh, really?' I reply, not paying much attention.

After a long silence, I’m thrown back when she concludes, ‘Mom, do you know that Kimberly’s dad is not a boy? He’s a good girl.’

I guess I have a lot of explaining to do.

Until we see each other again, 

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