2016 UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit holds November 28–29



By Adam Alqali

The 2016 UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit (MARS) focused on empowering women in research under the theme: “Infectious Diseases and Women Health” is set to hold on 28-29 November in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

It would be recalled that the inaugural UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit which focused on emergent infectious diseases such as Ebola was held in Geneva, Switzerland in October 2015.

UNESCO-MARS 2016 will be inaugurated by the trio of Mr Getchaw Engida, Deputy Director-General, UNESCO; Prof. Yifru Berhane, Minister for Health, Ethiopia, and Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board and Family Board of E. Merck KG.

The Summit will bring together more than 200 researchers from over 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.

Fifteen (15) African ministers of Health; Education; Science and Technology as well as Gender & Social Development will participate in a ministerial high-level panel on “defining interventions to advance research capacity and empower women in research to improve women health in Africa” as well as in another high-level panel on “research and policy making gap in Africa – challenges and opportunities – Africa as a new international hub for research excellence and scientific information.”

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“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,” said Rasha Kelej, Chief Social officer, Merck Healthcare.

The Summit will also feature the Merck Africa Research Summit (MARS) Awards which will recognize  young African researchers who have submitted outstanding abstracts; the first three young African researchers will be eligible for a number of research awards, while  further research awards will be dedicated for the ‘Best African Women Researchers’.

For the first time, 2016 UNESCO- MARS has attracted 150 researchers from both English and French speaking African countries, with researchers coming from over 25 countries including Francophone Rwanda, Gabon, Benin, Congo, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Morocco, as well as Anglophone South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, Tanzania, and Liberia.

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.

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