This summit is conducted annually to mark the world fertility awareness month and raise awareness about infertility stigma, male infertility and infertility prevention in Africa and beyond

ABUJA, Nigeria, June 19, 2024/ — Watch “More Than a Mother” animation film here:

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KgaA Germany and Africa Reproductive Care society (ARCS) together conducted the Third Edition of “World Infertility Awareness Summit (WIAS) 2024”. The Summit was co-chaired by Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President of “More Than a Mother” Campaign and also Chairperson of Africa Reproductive Care Society (ARCS) together with Prof. Oladapo Ashiru OFR, President of Africa Reproductive Care Society (ARCS) and also The Nigerian Academy of Medicine Specialties.

It was attended by Dr. Edem Hiadzi, Immediate past President of the Fertility Society Of Ghana (FERSOG); Prof. Justin E. MBOLOKO, Immediate Past President, Inter-African Fertility Research and Application Study Group (GIERAF) and Dr. Moustapha Thiam, Obstetrician Gynecologist IVF President, Senegal.

This summit is conducted annually to mark the world fertility awareness month and raise awareness about infertility stigma, male infertility and infertility prevention in Africa and beyond.

Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej emphasized, “We marked World Fertility Awareness Month with our Merck Foundation Alumni, fertility and reproductive care experts, presidents of fertility societies and members of Africa Reproductive Care Society (ARCS) and our media partners through 3rd Merck Foundation “World Infertility Awareness Summit”.

The summit is part of our efforts towards raising awareness about infertility. especially 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.

I am very proud to share that we, at Merck Foundation, have provided till today more than 574 scholarships of Embryology, Fertility and Sexual & Reproductive care to young doctors from 39 different countriesin Africa and Asia.

“Many of our Alumni are trained to be the first local experts in their countries, where they never used to have local embryologists or fertility specialists before our program, such as The Gambia, Burundi, Guinea, Chad, Niger, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Malawi, Congo and more.” Dr. Kelej added.

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During the program, Merck Foundation showcased their animation film “More Than a Mother”, adapted from their 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.

“Together with African First Ladies, and other important partners, we are making history and reshaping the landscape of fertility & Reproductive care across Africa and beyond.” She explained.

Prof. Oladapo Ashiru OFR, President of Africa Reproductive Care Society (ARCS) said, “Infertility has a great psychological impact on the women suffering from infertility stigma due to emotional and physical distress caused to her.

In some cases, women also go through physical and psychological violence and lacks the family support. Infertility is not only a medical issue but also a social issue and emotional issue. It is imperative that the community is informed and educated about the issue.”

“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 and also raising awareness through various campaigns and efforts around infertility stigma.” He emphasized.

The objectives of the Summit were:

• To raise awareness about infertility especially male infertility.

• To highlight preventive measure in infertility in Africa and developing countries.

• 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.

• Define interventions to break infertility stigma around women and couples.

The online program was attended by over 350 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 25 countries in Africa and beyond, and over 4500 online viewers on our social media platforms. The experts answered questions from the media.

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It was conducted under Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother”, a historic movement that defines interventions to build quality and equitable Reproductive and Fertility Care Capacity, Break Infertility Stigma and Raise Awareness about Infertility Prevention and Male Infertility.

According to WHO data, more than 180 million couples in developing countries – that is 1 in every 4 couple, suffer from infertility. In many cultures in Africa, infertility is a huge stigma.

Women are solely blamed for failing to conceive and the social stigma of childlessness, especially for women leads to isolation and stigmatization and results in discrimination and ostracism.

This mostly also leads to divorce or physical or psychological violence. As a part of “More Than a  Mother” Campaign, Merck Foundation has launched many initiatives to break this stigma and create a culture shift.

Moreover, Merck Foundation has trained more than 3200 media representatives from more than 35 countries to raise community awareness and break the stigma around infertility and infertile and childless women.

Merck Foundation’s pan African TV program“Our Africa”, that is conceptualized, produced, directed, and co-hosted by Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and features African Fashion Designers, Singers, and prominent experts from various domains with the aim to raise awareness and create a culture shift across Africa, has many episodes dedicated to raise awareness about infertility and breaking infertility stigma.

Watch the episodes here:

Episode 3:

Episode 5:

Episode 10:

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

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Merck Foundation also conducts MARS Awards to empower African young researchers & women researchers, advancing their research capacity and promote their contribution to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Details of Merck Foundation Africa Research Summit (MARS) Awards 2024:

Merck Foundation Africa Research Summit – MARS 2024 will have scientific support from African Union Scientific-Technical and Research Commission (AU-STRC); African Reproductive Care Society (ARCS) and Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE).

Theme: 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:

1) Women Health

2) Infertility and Reproductive Health

How to apply: Applications and abstracts can be submitted by clicking on:

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About Merck Foundation:
The Merck Foundation, established in 2017, is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology.

Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth.

All Merck Foundation press releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Foundation Website. Please visit to read more.

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