UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit- MARS 2016 to Empower Women in research with the focus on "Infectious Diseases and Women Health"

  • MARS 2016 contributes to Building Research Capacity in Africa to improve Women Health.
  • MARS 2016 addressing research in Francophone Africa for the first time.
  • 'Best African Woman Research Awards' to be launched for the first time at UNESCO MARS 2016.
  • The launch of on-line research community (www.merck-cap.com) to enable young researchers to share experience and knowledge with their peers and with established researchers in Africa and beyond.

Merck joined hands with UNESCO, African Union, Ethiopia Ministry of Health, University of Cambridge, Institute Pasteur International to empower women in research, build research capacity in Francophone and Anglophone Africa to improve women health in the continent.

Infectious Diseases and Women Health and empowering Women in Research will be the focus of the 2nd UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit-MARS 2016 to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 28-29 November, 2016.

The UNESCO-MARS 2016 will be introduced by Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare and Mr. Getchaw Engida, Deputy Director-General, UNESCO and inaugurated Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board and Family Board of E. Merck KG, Hon Prof. Yifru Berhane, Minister for Health, Ethiopia; and Hon. Dr. Tedros Adhanom, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopia.

Ministerial Panel 1 - Defining Interventions to Advance Research Capacity and Empower Women in Research and Improve Women Health in Africa

Introduction by:

Dr. Rasha Kelej
Chief Social Officer,
Merck Healthcare

Hon. Getchaw Engida
Deputy Director General, UNESCO

Officially inaugurated by:

Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp

Chairman of the Executive Board &
Family Board of E.Merck KG

Hon. Prof. Yifru Berhane

Minister of Health, Ethiopia

H.E Dr. Tedros Adhanom

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

"The example of the UNESCO-MERCK cooperation symbolises the emergent need of creating sustainable partnerships among heterogeneous actors, to support research in life and health sciences in Africa," said Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board and Family Board of E. Merck KG.

UNESCO-MARS 2016 will bring together more than 200 researchers from more than 35 African countries to discuss the generation, sharing and dissemination of research data and to prepare for the road ahead in developing Africa as an international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation.

"UNESCO-MARS 2016 has attracted 15 African ministers of Health; Education; Science & Technology; and Gender & Social Development to participate in two ministerial high level panels on: 'Defining Interventions to Advance Research Capacity and Empower Women in Research to Improve Women Health in Africa' and 'Research and Policy Making Gap in Africa- Challenges and Opportunities-Africa as a New International Hub for Research Excellence and Scientific Information," emphasized Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

"The theme of the Summit "Infectious Diseases and Women Health" is informed by the fact that for many infectious diseases, women are at higher risk and have a more severe course of illness than men for many reasons including biological differences, social inequities, and restrictive cultural norms. Therefore, efforts to recognize and reduce health disparities among women have particular relevance for global health," Rasha Kelej emphasized.

"The Summit will focus on the relation between infectious diseases and cancer in women, untreated infectious diseases and the high prevalence of infertility in Africa," Rasha Kelej added.

It will also aim to identifying the scientific research priorities for evolving health needs to address infectious diseases such as; Malaria, Schistosomiasis and Zika in relation to women heath.

On the second day of UNESCO- MARS 2016, Merck on-line research community (www.merck-cap.com) will launched to enable young researchers to exchange experience and knowledge with their peers and with established researchers in Africa and beyond

The first UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit 2015 was successfully organized and held in Geneva, Switzerland in October 2015. The Summit's aim was to address the vital role of scientific research in the improvement and sustainable development of Africa's population health, with specific emphasis on emergent infectious diseases such as Ebola.


UNESCO-MARS awardees and other participants during the 2015 Summit in Geneva, Switzerland

Key African Ministers to attend Summit to participate in ministerial panels

This year's Summit has attracted 15 African ministers of Health; Education; Science and technology; Gender and Social Development to participate in two ministerial high level panels

The first ministerial high level panel that will focus on 'Defining Interventions to Advance Research Capacity and Empower Women in Research to Improve Women Health in Africa,' will involve: Hon. Sarah Opendi, Minister of State for Health, Uganda; Hon. Idi Illiassou Mainassara, Minister of Public Health, Niger; Hon. Dr. Ashraf ElShihy, Minister of Higher Education and State for Scientific Research, Egypt; Hon. Julia Duncan Cassell, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Development, Liberia; Hon. Filiga Michel Sawadogo, Minister of Education & Science, Burkina Faso; Hon. Jesus Engonga Ndong, Minister of Education & Science, Equatorial Guinea and Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of Executive Board and Family Board of E.Merck KG.

Ministerial Panel 1 - Defining Interventions to Advance Research Capacity and Empower Women in Research and Improve Women Health in Africa

Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp

Chairman of the Executive Board &
Family Board of E.Merck KG

Hon. Sarah Opendi

Minister of State for Health, Uganda

Hon. Idi Illassou Mainassara,

Minister of Public Health, Niger

Hon. Dr. Ashraf Mohamed Elshihy

Minister of Higher Education and Minister of State for Scientific Research, Egypt

Hon. Fliga Michel Sawadogo

Minister of Education
& Science, Burkina Faso

Hon. Julia Duncan Cassell,

Minister of Gender, Children
& Social Development, Liberia

Hon. Jesus Engonga Ndong

Minister of Education &
Science, Equatorial Guinea

The second ministerial panel on 'Research and policy making gap in Africa - challenges and opportunities - Africa as a new international hub for research excellence and scientific information will include: Hon. Assane Ngueadoum, Minister of Health, Chad; Hon. Prof. Yifru Berhane, Minister of Health, Ethiopia; Hon. Zuliatu Cooper, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone; Hon. Octave Nicoue Broohm, Minister of Education, Togo; Hon. Dr. Joao Sebastiao Teta, Secretary of State, Angola; and Hon. Leon N'zouba, Minister of Health, Gabon

Ministerial Panel 2-Research and Policy Making Gap in Africa-Challenges and Opportunities-Africa as a New International Hub for Research Excellence and Scientific Innovation

Hon. Assane Ngueadoum
Minister of Health, Chad

Hon. Prof. Yifru Berhan
Minister of Health, Ethiopia

Hon. Zuliatu M. Cooper
Deputy Minister of Health
& Sanitation, Sierra Leone

Hon. Octave Nicoue Broohm
Minister of Education, Togo

Hon. Leon N'zouba
Minister of Health, Gabon

Dr. Joao Sebastiao Teta
Secretary of State, Angola

HRH Princess Nisreen El-Hashemite
Founder of the World Women's Health & Development Forum

The Summit will also be addressed by HRH Princess Nisreen El-Hashemite, the Founder of the World Women's Health and Development Forum who will speak on 'Role of Women in Life Science and Medical Research in addressing the SDGs'.

Empowering Women in Research

Of the more than 200 researchers attending the Summit 60% of them are women. This is contributing to one of the aims of UNESCO-MARS to empower women who are underrepresented in Africa.

"In addition, the UNESCO-MARS 2016 will launch for the first time the 'Best African Woman Research Awards' to recognize the outstanding contribution of African women researchers and scientists with the aim of promoting women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)," Rasha Kelej emphasized.

Summit addressing Francophone Africa for the first time

This is the first time that the UNESCO-MARS summit is addressing Francophone Africa. It has attracted over 200 researchers from over 35 English and French speaking countries. These include researchers from Francophone countries such as Senegal, Rwanda, Gabon, Benin, Congo, Cameroon, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Niger, Burundi and Anglophone countries such as Namibia, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Liberia, Botswana and Ethiopia

The 2nd UNESCO MARS Summit is a unique opportunity for Africa's young and talented scientists to share their research output and findings with the top echelon of scientists from Africa and abroad. It is also an opportunity for networking and career development. The Summit will present a platform where young scientists will be able to discuss the enabling environment for better research among others.

Diverse and rich Summit agenda on innovative research in Africa

The researchers will also benefit from various sessions in form of speeches, keynote lecturers and panel discussion delivered by a diverse set of speakers from academia, research institutions, major funding organizations on health/medical research, chairs of medical research councils, NGOs, industry, established and emerging researchers, policy makers, ministers of health/science from the AU member states among others.

The sessions will focus on:

  1. Identifying scientific research priorities for evolving health needs: the case of infectious diseases and women health. This session will cover the emergence of Zika virus; untreated infections and infertility high prevalence; Cancer in women and the importance of prevention and early detection, schistosomiasis and Malaria and women health.
  2. Building life science and medical research capacity in Africa and promoting women participation in scientific research with a focus on building capacity through access to training and research.
  3. Enhancing the policy environment and mechanism to improve research in health: opportunities and challenges covering biotechnology; policies and strategies in health research in Africa; and ethical guidelines for the conduct of research in Africa.

Researchers participating in the Summit will also have an opportunity to participate in workshops on mentoring with a focus on empowering women and youth in research and on networking in research and the challenges that arise and opportunities available.

A central gallery will be provided to the attending researchers to display, demonstrate and discuss participants research (posters and abstracts) followed by poster sessions.

The main objectives of the UNESCO MARS 2016 Summit are:

  1. Build research capacity in the African (scientific) health research community with special focus on women health and emergent infectious diseases;
  2. Showcase innovative research taking place in projects, programs and initiatives across African universities and institutes and the wider African research community;
  3. Discuss challenges, opportunities and proposed strategies to support health decision making in low and middle income countries;
  4. Empowering African Young Researchers and Women Researchers and advance their research capacity and promote their contribution to STEM.
  5. Provide networking opportunities to strength the scientific community and their impact on African society and media communication, where they exchange experiences, knowledge, and best practice and establish cooperation for future research and development projects.
  6. Merck Africa Research Summit Awards 2016

    During the Summit, Young African Researchers who have submitted outstanding abstracts will be recognised. The first three Young African Researchers will be eligible for a number of research awards, while a further research award will be dedicated for the 'Best African Women Researchers'. During the 2015 Summit, several participants were recognized and awarded for excellence in research, in which, two scientists were awarded six-month fellowships in Merck's Biotechnology R&D hub in Germany.

    The first award of a six month fellowship at the Merck R&D hub was granted to Benard Kulohoma from the University of Nairobi, Kenya and Rebecca Chukwuanukwu from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nigeria. Both of them have actively contributed towards the preparation of the 2nd UNESCO MARS 2016.


    Rebecca Chukwuanukwu from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nigeria


    Benard Kulohoma, the 2015 first award winner from Kenya (center) with Dr. Stefan Oschmann, CEO, Merck and Prof. George Godia, the UNESCO Ambassador for Kenya

    Join the conversation on building research capacity in Africa through UNESCO-MARS at:

    Facebook page Merck Africa Research Summit

    Twitter handle: @Merck_MARS

    YouTube Channel Merck Africa Research Summit

    For more information on the UNESCO-MARS 2016 Summit go to:

    www.unesco-mars.comand www.merck-cap.com

    http://en.unesco.org/events/2nd-edition-unesco-merck-africa-research-summit-unesco-mars