July 13, 2020

Kenya needs more oncologists on rising cases of cancer, First Lady says

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta holding a roundtable discussion with her guest Merck Foundation CEO Dr Rasha Kelej at State House, Nairobi on April 7, 2019 Image: PSCU



Kenya is in need of more oncologists especially in the counties to handle the rising cases of cancer, says First Lady Margaret Kenyatta.

While hosting the Merck Foundation chief executive officer Dr Rasha Kelej at State House today (April 7), Mrs Kenyatta called for more training of oncologists, experts in diabetes and infertility management.

The foundation is US-based charity organization that supports institutions and innovative programs that are aligned with its three focus areas of health, education and the community. Its objective is to improve health and well-being of people through science and technology.

Currently, the foundation is working with the University of Nairobi on a two-year oncology fellowship program in which five doctors are undergoing specialist training.


Dr Kelej, who doubles up as the President of “Merck more than a mother” programme, said the training of more oncologists will ensure more cancer patients have access to specialized treatment and care.

Apart from training of cancer specialists, the CEO says her organization is ready to sponsor the capacity building of experts in diabetes management adding that several Kenyan doctors are already undertaking an online training program on diabetes with the support of Merck Foundation.

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta discussing with Merck Foundation chief executive officer Dr Rasha Kelej at State House when she her a courtesy call on April 7, 2019
Image: PSCU

As part of the ongoing implementation of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), the Government last year brought in specialist Cuban doctors, among them experts in diabetes, in an exchange programme where several Kenyan doctors are undergoing postgraduate training in Cuba.

The host and Dr. Kelej also spoke about the growing need to train more Kenyan infertility specialists saying stigma and lack of awareness are major challenges facing those affected by the medical condition.


“Merck Foundation is working on a sponsorship package for several Kenyan doctors to attend a three-month training programme on infertility in India,” she said.

Through “Merck more than a mother” program, the Foundation seeks to empower infertile women and break the stigma around infertility in Africa.

Recently, the Foundation held a Summit in Dubai that brought together 15 First Ladies to discuss challenges associated with infertility.

The two also discussed increased partnership between the foundation and Beyond Zero especially in the innovative health programmes including the integrated medical safaris.

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta with her guest Merck Foundation chief executive officer Dr Rasha Kelej at State House on April 7, 2019
Image: PSCU


The First Lady thanked Dr. Kelej for Merck’s continued support for Beyond Zero saying her office will continue working closely with the Foundation.

Other areas of Merck’s work on Kenya an initiative dubbed “computer laboratories for the blind program” through which the American organization supports 16 schools for the blind across the country.

The foundation further works with female researchers  and healthcare providers through the annual UNESCO Merck Africa Reasearch Summit with the Best African Woman Researcher Award and Best Young African Researcher Award.

Dr Kelej was accompanied to State House by Merck’s Program Director and Regional Head for Africa Saika Leonard.

Others who attended the meeting were National AIDS Control Council (NACC) CEO Dr Nduku Kilonzo and Beyond Zero Technical Advisor Jane Kiragu.

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