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Merck Empowers Ugandan Infertile Women

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Merck Empowers Ugandan Infertile Women

Merck Empowers Ugandan Infertile Women

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Leading science and technology company, Merck, today continues their commitment for the second year to empower infertile women in Uganda through improving access to information, health, change of mind-set and economic empowerment.

Through ‘Empowering Berna’, Merck in partnership with Uganda Ministry of Health inaugurates today small businesses that been established this year to support infertile women across the country.

The day’s program also included a courtesy visit to Uganda’s First Lady H.E. Janet Museveni at State House, Kampala by the Merck delegation to brief her on the ‘Merck More than a Mother’ initiative and to explore possible areas of collaboration. The delegation consisted of H.E. Madame Brigitte Touadera, First Lady, Central African Republic; Sarah Opendi, Minister of State for Health, Uganda; Belen Garijo, CEO, Merck Healthcare; Virginie Baiokua, Minister of Social Affairs and National Reconciliation, Central African Republic; Zuliatu Cooper, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone; Joyce Lay, Member of Parliament, Kenya; Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare; and Lina Ekomo, Central African Republic.

Speaking at the event, Belén Garijo, Member of Executive Board and CEO of Merck Healthcare emphasized: “I believe in women empowerment and especially childless women – they are mistreated and discriminated in many cultures for being unable to have children and start a family. Empowering these women through access to information, health, and change of mind set to remove the stigma of infertility is needed. Through ‘Merck More than a Mother’ we are supporting this strong message together with our partners and we will continue our commitment to improve access to regulated and effective fertility care in Africa.”

“In Africa including Uganda, infertile women still suffer discrimination, stigma and ostracism. More often an inability to have a child or to become pregnant results in the woman being greatly isolated, disinherited or assaulted. This sometimes also results in divorce or physical and psychological violence. I am glad to see an initiative that addresses this challenge in the public domain in Africa as it is something that no one talks about and is treated as secret. ‘Merck More than a Mother’ is therefore very important for Africa since it aims to define interventions to reduce the stigma and social suffering of infertile women across the continent,” said, Sarah Opendi, Minister of State of Health, Uganda.

Madame Brigitte Touadera, the First Lady of the Central African Republic (CAR) said: “I am very happy to participate in today’s launch another milestone of ‘Merck More than a Mother’ in Uganda as it follows the one we had for the Central African Republic (CAR) last month and in Kenya yesterday. As the champion for the initiative in CAR and for Francophone Africa, I acknowledge the social suffering infertile women go through and the role that ‘Merck More than a Mother’ is playing to eliminate this suffering and stigmatization by raising awareness about infertility prevention, male infertility and the necessity of a team approach to family building among couples which is very critical for Africa.”

Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare explained: “Empowering those women across Ugandan rural villages was very essential, those women suffered great deal of discrimination, violence and isolation. Moreover meeting community members and leaders there to emphasize the importance to change their perception of infertility and infertile women in specific was very productive. I have witnessed firsthand the instant change of their mind-set and the transformation of those vulnerable childless women to strong, proud and productive community members.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lower levels of development are thought to be associated with higher levels of non-genetic and preventable causes of infertility such as poor nutrition, untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unsafe abortion, consequence of infections caused by the practice of female genital mutilation, exposure to smoking and to leaded petrol and other environmental pollutants. Hence prevention awareness is very important,” Sarah Opendi added.

“The businesses established by ‘Empowering Berna’ project are benefitting over 800 women in many districts in Uganda who have come together in groups and have been trained and supported to establish bakery, catering and tent hire businesses and more. They are currently able to earn an income to support themselves from their own new businesses – they are now ‘more than mothers’,” Rasha Kelej added.

Over 1,000 infertile women in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, CAR, Ethiopia, Liberia and Cote D’Ivoire who can no longer be treated have been empowered socially and economically to lead independent and happier lives through ‘Empowering Berna’.

The event in Uganda was attended by policy makers including ministers and fertility experts and included: Sarah Opendi, Minister of State of Health, Uganda; Zuliatu Cooper, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone; Virginie Baikoua, Minister of Social Affairs and National Reconciliation, CAR; Joyce Lay, Member of Parliament, Kenya; Oladapo Ashiru, President of Africa Fertility Society; Joe Simpson, Past President, International Federation of Fertility Societies; Paul Le Roux, President of Southern African Society of Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy; Kamini Rao, Chair International Institute for Training & Research in Reproductive Health, India; and Mohamed Kamal, President of Future Assured Foundation, Nigeria.

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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Health

Stanbic IBTC Pushes for Innovative Financing Solutions for Healthcare

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innovative financing solutions

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The healthcare industry in Nigeria can compete with others in advanced countries if stakeholders work together to create innovative financing solutions.

The Head of Specialised Sectors at Stanbic IBTC Bank, Ms Jane Ike-Okoli, said the market is big enough to attract more investors.

A few days ago, Business Post reported that a global research firm, Agusto & Co, projected that an increased foreign interest would drive growth in Nigeria’s healthcare system, especially through the acquisition and establishment of health facilities in the medium term, helping to bridge the healthcare infrastructure deficit estimated at $82 million.

For Ms Ike-Okoli, this goal can be achieved as Nigeria is Africa’s largest healthcare market. She said the country only needs an effective collaboration among stakeholders to boost the sector.

Speaking during the panel session at the Medic West Africa Conference, Ms Ike-Okoli argued that effective collaboration between the financial industry and healthcare organisations was key to advancing Nigeria’s health sector.

She also mentioned that the sector is yearning for innovative financing solutions to address the nuances of lending to healthcare businesses.

“Nigeria is Africa’s largest healthcare market, and despite this, we have inadequate healthcare infrastructure, which gives rise to weakened health systems.

“It is in response to this that Stanbic IBTC has decided to partner with key players in the healthcare sector to improve access to healthcare finance and provide robust yet flexible funding options for healthcare businesses and providers.

“Our healthcare solutions are tailor-made for players in the sector who need working capital to expand healthcare operations, acquire medical equipment, facilitate medical research, and grow their healthcare businesses.

“One of such solutions is the recently launched unsecured short-term loan with a 12-month tenor, which is aimed at directly supporting providers with funds to improve their offerings and, by extension, grow the healthcare sector in Nigeria,” she stated.

Other panellists featured at the event included Dr Folabi Ogunlesi, Managing Partner Vesta Healthcare; Dr Idorenyin Oladiran, Medical Consultant, Human Resources, MTN Nigeria; Dr Leke Oshunniyi, CEO, Health and Managed Care Association of Nigeria (HMCAN) and Professor Akin Abayomi, Commissioner of Health, Lagos State.

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Health

Pharmaceutical Company Introduces Affordable Blood Tonic for Nigerians

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Fejeron Blood Tonic

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The harsh economy in Nigeria caused by high prices of items amid low purchasing power has made it difficult for Nigerians to afford the basic needs of life, especially drugs to replenish their body system.

As a result, the rate of suicide triggered by depression and others has increased. Also, the number of people falling sick in the country has skyrocketed.

But things may soon change for the better as a pharmaceutical firm, Sterling Biopharma Limited, has introduced a new product called Fejeron Blood Tonic into the Nigerian market to support the country’s about 66.8 per cent economically active population.

Fejeron Blood Tonic contains iron, Vitamin B12 and folic acid, all essential components that help to facilitate adequate blood supply and replenishment to the body with vital vitamins while enabling a strong immune system.

“Fejeron Blood Tonic is the latest proof of our commitment to this mission. Despite its premium quality, Fejeron, at the moment, is one of the most affordable blood tonics you will find in the Nigerian pharma market, and this is deliberate. All Nigerians should be able to take care of themselves,” the chief operating officer of Sterling Biopharma, Mr Adebayo Adepoju, said at the unveiling of the product in Lagos on Thursday, September 15.

He said the drug was formulated due to the nature of stress and fatigue that Nigerians encounter daily, which requires that their physical and mental well-being is well supported to function at its best.

“At Sterling Biopharma, we believe that everyone deserves to be able to buy simple prescription drugs without breaking the bank. This is why from the moment we entered the Nigerian market. With our wide range of products, we have made our intentions clear, and that is to make quality pharmaceutical products affordable for all Nigerians,” he stated.

Since its market introduction, Fejeron has quickly become one of the well-sought-after new brands in the pharmaceutical category. The Product Manager, Olumide Ogunremi, linked the warm embrace of the product to its quality and appeal to the needs of Nigerians.

“The quick acceptance of Fejeron Blood Tonic in Nigeria is not surprising. The enthusiasm to try out the product and the return purchases across the biggest pharmaceutical markets in Nigeria validate the quality of the product and timeliness of its emergence.”

On what makes Fejeron Blood Tonic unique, Mr Ogunremi promised that both the young and old would love the taste of Fejeron, adding that extra effort has also been put into ensuring that the product has fewer chances of causing common side effects like metallic after-taste, staining of the teeth; constipation, diarrhoea, nausea and others.

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Health

Agusto Foresees More Foreign Investments in Nigeria’s Healthcare System

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Nigeria's healthcare system

By Adedapo Adesanya

Global research firm, Agusto & Co, has forecast that an increased foreign interest will drive growth in Nigeria’s healthcare system, especially through the acquisition and establishment of health facilities in the medium term.

Agusto said in a report that these foreign investments would help the country bridge the healthcare infrastructure deficit estimated at $82 million.

According to data, Nigeria is largely underfunded in terms of its health system and, as a result, is faced with a significant infrastructure gap.

The industry is currently challenged by outbound medical tourism, deteriorating medical infrastructure, low government budget allocation, and poor compensation for public healthcare workers, all of which have prompted many skilled medical practitioners to relocate overseas in search of better employment opportunities.

In addition, brain drain is also contributing to this as approximately 2,000 doctors leave the country each year, and at least 266 Nigerian doctors were licensed in the United Kingdom between June and July 2022, according to the National Medical Association (NMA).

Nigeria has also not been playing its part, with the health sector receiving only about 4 per cent (N546.98 billion) and 5 per cent (N724.6 billion) of the total budgetary allocation in Nigeria’s 2021 and 2022 budgets. This undershoots the 15 per cent expected by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and African  Union (AU).

Agusto noted that the emergence of COVID-19 in 2020 saw an increase in diagnostic facilities and, albeit insufficiently, an increase in public investments in the health sector with efforts from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Despite this, there remains more to be done, especially with the country’s large population facing a high burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases, resulting in many people constantly seeking treatment.

Foreign investors have found the Nigerian healthcare system to be an attractive investment opportunity, and in 2021, the healthcare industry attracted around $2.3 million in foreign direct investments (FDI).

For instance, in February 2021, Evercare Group, through its emerging market health fund, established Evercare Hospital Lekki, a 165-bed multispecialty tertiary care facility.

Agusto predicts that the industry’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) will reach N480.6 billion by 2022 from N470.5 billion, based on the country’s high birth rate and the spread of communicable diseases as well as other common ailments such as malaria and respiratory tract infection.

It also expects that a lower rate of outbound medical tourism, as a result of the naira’s continued depreciation, will boost the industry’s contribution to GDP in the medium term.

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