By Tendai Rupapa
Accra — Medical practitioners have come out in full support of the partnership between First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa and Merck Foundation, which has unlocked training opportunities for them on infertility issues. Speaking on the sidelines of the 6th addition of the Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary, which ended here yesterday, Family Health Director in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Bernard Madzima said the collaboration among Merck Foundation, the First Lady and the Ministry of Health and Child Care had brought positive results.
Amai Mnangagwa, who is the country’s Health Ambassador, was also recognised together with other African First Ladies, for her ambassadorial role as Merck More than a Mother Ambassador in Zimbabwe.
She also attended the two-day conference.
“Our doctors are being trained in the areas of oncology sub specialties like paediatric oncology, radiation oncology and surgical oncology,” said Dr Madzima.
“Also on issues of infertility, our doctors are being trained in embryology and in vitro fertilisation (IVF).”
Dr Madzima said services of curing infertility had been available in the private sector, but were expensive.
“Having doctors from the public sector trained and being able to offer their services will go a long way in making sure that the services reach the common person,” he said.
Courtesy of the First Lady, beneficiaries of the training programme will be drawn from various corners of the country.
“We have targeted both the northern and southern region,” said Dr Madzima.
“Some of the doctors are going to come from Bulawayo and others from Harare. The services will be decentralised, but it is not a question of them being trained only, we need to set up clinics. So, the Government will have to then look at how they can set up the clinics so that we are able to offer the services to the people.
“We need highly trained doctors and highly trained lab scientists in the public sector.”
Dr Madzima spelt the need for the training to benefit doctors working in the districts.
“We want every district to have a doctor who is specialised in the management of diabetes mellitus,” he said.
“Through collaboration with University of South Wales in the UK, doctors are undergoing a one-year online course for diabetes mellitus management.
“At least at every district hospital we must have a doctor who is specialised in managing diabetes and its complications. We are thankful to our First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa. We are one of the newest countries to come on board and benefit from Merck Foundation support.
“In the past years, we were not considered until when our First Lady joined.
“Other African countries have been benefiting. We are the new kids on the block and we are grateful to the First Lady for the work she is doing for the country, especially in the health sector.
“She has been running around looking out for support to improve the health outcomes.”
One of the beneficiaries of the training on infertility, Dr Harrison Rambanepasi, a gynaecologist at United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH), thanked the First Lady for collaborating with Merck Foundation, thereby improving the health sector.
“I am privileged to be the first doctor to be selected to undergo Merck funded training on fertility in India under the Merck More than a Mother campaign,” he said.
“This was made possible through the facilitation of the relationship that our First Lady has with Merck Foundation.
“We were trained on how to evaluate patients that are infertile, both men and women. We were also trained on how to treat them. This was a high end of knowledge in reproductive technology.
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“In Zimbabwe there were two IVF clinics and both were in the private sector. My training means that I am now capacitated.
“We are hoping that with investment from the Government, we will be able to set up clinics in the public hospitals and this will increase access to infertility treatment.
“There is need for huge investment though in setting up the fertility clinics.”
Merck chief executive Rasha Kelej said more was in store to build capacity in health institutions of countries benefiting from the programme.
“Together with First Ladies of Africa, we will work on a strong strategy to build health care capacity and provide the necessary training to establish a strong platform of experts in diabetes, hypertension, cancer and fertility care in their countries and define interventions to break infertility stigma,” said Kelej.