Merck Foundation, IFFS and ARCS Mark World Infertility Awareness Month During Their World Infertility Awareness Summit 2023

Nairobi [Kenya]/Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], June 20: Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KgaA Germany, in partnership with International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS) and Africa Reproductive Care Society (ARCS) conducted the Second Edition of their “World Infertility Awareness Summit (WIAS) 2023”.

The Summit was co-chaired by Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President of “More Than a Mother” Campaign and Chairperson of Africa Reproductive Care Society (ARCS), Dr. Edgar Mocanu, President of International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS), and Prof. Oladapo Ashiru OFR, President of Africa Reproductive Care Society (ARCS), and President of The Nigerian Academy of Medicine Specialties.

Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej emphasized, “Our joint summit in partnership with International Federation of Fertility Societies and Africa Reproductive Care Society, has been our effort towards raising awareness about infertility, and specially male infertility, and to sensitizing communities to end the stigma associated with infertility and empower infertile women & couples through access to information, education, health and change of mindset. Together we marked the World Fertility Awareness Month.

I am very proud that as part of our Merck Foundation More Than A Mother campaign in partnership with African First Ladies who are also the Ambassadors of Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign, Ministries of Health, Academia and Fertility Societies, we provided more than 490 scholarships to young doctors from 39 countries to be the local fertility experts in their respective countries.

Many of them were trained to be the first local fertility experts in their countries where they never had even a single local embryologist or fertility specialist before such as; The Gambia, Burundi, Guinea, Chad, Niger, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Malawi, and more.

Together with Merck Foundation Alumni, and our partners, we are making history and reshaping the landscape of fertility care across Africa and beyond.”

Dr. Edgar Mocanu, President of International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS) stated, “The aim of the summit is to ensure that the voice of the infertile is heard. I know enormous efforts have been taken in Africa and organizations are working tirelessly to focus on the African continent. The whole month is an important month for all of us to work together in raising awareness for about infertility, its prevention and treatment options.”

Prof. Oladapo Ashiru OFR, President of Africa Reproductive Care Society (ARCS) said, “Infertility is not only a medical issue but also a social issue as it affects the psychological health of the women suffering with infertility stigma due to emotional distress and physical violence too in some cases.

Infertility can be preventive by adopting various measures like switching to a healthy lifestyle, quitting smoking, reducing stress and anxiety, and ending the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). I appreciate the efforts of Merck Foundation for breaking the stigma around infertility.”

The objectives of the Summit were:

  1. To raise awareness about infertility especially make infertility.
  2. To highlight preventive measure in infertility in Africa and developing countries.
  3. To discuss the challenges and define solutions to improve access to quality and equitable Infertility, Sexual & Reproductive Care via building healthcare capacity and raising community awareness.
  4. Define interventions to break infertility stigma around women and couples. The summit was conducted under Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign, a strong movement that aims to empower women living with Infertility through access to information, education, change of mindset, and economic empowerment. This powerful campaign supports defines interventions to build quality and equitable Reproductive and Fertility Care Capacity, Break Infertility Stigma and Raise Awareness about Infertility Prevention and Male Infertility. Merck Foundation has trained more than 2200 media representatives from more than 30 countries to raise community awareness and break the stigma around infertility and infertile and childless women. Merck Foundation has also been empowering childless and infertile women through their “Empowering Berna” initiative under their “More Than a Mother” movement. This initiative helps women who cannot be treated for infertility anymore by helping them to get trained to establish small businesses so that they can be independent and rebuild their lives. Merck Foundation in partnership with African First Ladies has also launched David’s Story, a children’s storybook to emphasize strong family values of love and respect from a young age which will reflect on eliminating the stigma of infertility and the resulted domestic violence in the future. The storybooks have been localized for each country to have a better connect with the young readers. Read David’s Story here: Merck Foundation has also released about 30 songs, many of these songs have been created with the aim to break the infertility stigma, as a part of their “More Than a Mother” campaign. Listen to all “More than a Mother” songs here: To address this important issue of breaking infertility stigma and also a wide range of other social issues, Merck Foundation annually launches their ‘More Than a Mother’ Awards in partnership with African First Ladies, for Media, Fashion, Film making, and Musicians, students, and potential talents in these fields, to create a culture shift and break the silence about one or more of the following topics: Breaking Infertility Stigma, Supporting Girl Education, Women Empowerment, Ending Child Marriage, Ending FGM, and/ or Stopping GBV at all levels. Entries can be submitted on [email protected]. Speaking about the success of their joint summit, Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and Chairperson of Africa Reproductive Care Society (ARCS) emphasized, “I am very proud that our joint Summit -WIAS 2023 was a great success. It was addressed by prominent speakers from prestigious fertility societies including FIGO, GIERAF, REDLARA, ASPIRE, Fruitful Vine Africa, and FERSOG. We had more than 500 participants including Merck Foundation partners and Alumni who are future Fertility Specialists, Reproductive and Sexual Care Specialists, and Embryologists, Healthcare Providers, Policy Makers and Media Professionals from over 50 countries in Africa and beyond, and 4500 online viewers on our social media platforms”. During the Summit, Merck Foundation CEO also announced the Call for Applications for the Merck Foundation Africa Research Summit (MARS) Awards 2023. The aim of MARS Awards is to empower African young researchers & women researchers, advancing their research capacity and promote their contribution to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). “I am looking forward to the entries from young African researchers and also women researchers”, emphasized Dr. Kelej. Details of Merck Foundation Africa Research Summit (MARS) Awards 2023: Merck Foundation Africa Research Summit – MARS 2023 will have scientific support from African Union Scientific-Technical and Research Commission (AU-STRC); Infectious Diseases Institute, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University, Uganda; Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI); African Reproductive Care Society (ARCS), International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS); and Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE). Theme for the awards: The Role of Scientific Research in Women Health and Reproductive Care Who can apply: Abstracts are invited from final year PhD students, young investigators involved in research and Medical Doctors in Postgraduate Medical Fellowship program related to either of the following topics:
  5. Women Health
  6. Infertility and Reproductive Health All applicants should be primarily based at African Research Institutes and Universities, although collaboration within Africa as well as outside is also welcome. Submission deadline: 30th June 2023. Other Details:
  • All Abstracts will be peer reviewed.
  • Research Awards will be dedicated for two categories: “Best Young African Researcher” and “Best African Woman Researcher”.
  • The Winners receive a 3 months Research Training scholarship in India
  • One Best Abstract winner from each category will get an opportunity to present their abstract at the IFFS World Fertility Congress in Athens How to apply: Applications and abstracts can be submitted by clicking on: Entries can also be sent via email to [email protected] along with CV (including Name, Gender, Country, University/Hospital Name, Email address, Mobile Number) and the abstract document as an attachment. Click here for more details. Click on the link below to download Merck Foundation App Join the conversation on our social media platforms below and let your voice be heard Facebook: Merck Foundation Twitter: @MerckFoundation YouTube: MerckFoundation Instagram: Merck Foundation Flickr: Merck Foundation Website: