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The President of the Republic of Zambia, Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, has urged African leaders to focus on building their healthcare capacity and training ‘more and more’ healthcare providers in various specialties to keep the African population healthy and productive.

He said as the African population grows to almost 1.4 billion people, there was the need for the continent to build its healthcare systems so as to respond to its health needs.

For him, the African Continent could only meet its healthcare needs if it invested in specialised training for its healthcare practitioners.

Dr Lungu made the call during the opening day of a three-day virtual Merck Africa Asia Luminary conference, which commenced on Tuesday, April 27, 2021.

The conference, which is in its 8th edition, brought together Ministers of Health, Gender, Information, Education and Science & Technology from 25 African countries.

Similarly, more than 5,000 healthcare providers, policymakers and media practitioners from over 70 countries took part in the virtual conference, which was co-chaired by the First Lady of Zambia, Esther Lungu, and Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, the CEO of Merck Foundation.

The three-day virtual event provides the platform for partners to meet and discuss strategies and solutions for health challenges with the aim of contributing to an improved access to quality and equitable healthcare solutions in Africa, particularly in the area of breaking the stigma of infertility.

Dr Lungu said, “Our efforts to attain success in creating healthcare centres of excellence in African countries aimed at addressing challenges facing the continent in the health sector, depends on specialised healthcare personnel.”

He said “It is gratifying that the critical role of our health workers has been appreciated and re-emphasised during the COVID-19 pandemic which is confronting the globe.”

He said his government had identified human resources for health as a critical investment in ensuring that “our people are healthy and productive,” saying “This resource is a prerequisite to our country’s socio-economic transformation and is well articulated in our national development plan and the national health strategic plan.”

He commended Merck Foundation for partnering with African governments to train more specialised healthcare practitioners on the continent.

“I am impressed with the Foundation’s smart strategy and flawless execution which is aimed at advancing capacity of our healthcare by providing critical and underserved specialty training for our local doctors across the country, hence ensuring quality and equitable healthcare to our people, a critical ingredient in the attainment of universal health coverage,” Dr Lungu noted.

He said to achieve the sustainable development goals, there is urgent need for innovative, dynamic and purposeful partnerships, adding that “It is only through effective coordination of collective effort that we can achieve these goals.”

“I am happy and encouraged that Merck Foundation has partnered with African governments including Zambia to reshape our human capital development landscape in Zambia by providing more than 85 Zambian doctors with specialised training in many fields such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension and women health, reproductive health as well as, respiratory and intensive care,” he said.

Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, the CEO of Merck Foundation, said the Foundation would continue to work with African governments to help develop the needed competencies of critical healthcare practitioners on the continent.

She said it was Foundation’s strategy to create a significant impact in the under-served communities across the world.

Touching on the luminary conference, she said, “Together we will discuss our strategy realisation to build healthcare capacity, respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, provide the necessary training to establish a strong platform of experts in many important and critical specialties in their countries in collaboration with their Offices and Ministries of Health.”

She added that the luminary conference would also help to “define interventions to break the stigma around infertility in general and infertile women in specific and to support girl education as Ambassadors of “Merck Foundation More Than a Mother” campaign.”

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