Merck Champions Innovative Health Education to Tackle Schistosomiasis in Ethiopia

03 April 2024 | Wednesday | News

The company announces winners of its Schistosomiasis Storytelling Lab, rewarding creative awareness solutions for sugar farmers, as part of its broader commitment to eliminate the disease by 2030.
The winners of this year's Merck Bilharzia Storytelling Lab in Ethiopia

The winners of this year's Merck Bilharzia Storytelling Lab in Ethiopia

  • Merck invests in health education initiatives for behavior change as part of its integrated approach to schistosomiasis.
  • On March 22, 2024, the company announced the winners of its third Schistosomiasis Storytelling Lab in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The winners have developed a solution that informs sugar farmers about the disease through participatory theatre.
  • Merck is fully committed to contributing to the elimination of schistosomiasis as a public health problem by 2030.

Merck, a leading player in science and technology, has announced the winners of its 2024 Schistosomiasis Storytelling Lab in Ethiopia. This innovative initiative aims to develop creative solutions to raise awareness about schistosomiasis and, in doing so, bring about behaviour change.

Schistosomiasis is one of the most common parasitic diseases, affecting more than 240 million people worldwide. It is a chronic condition, considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of 21 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). NTDs are poverty-related diseases with far-reaching economic and social impacts. Also known as schistosomiasis, the disease is transmitted through dermal exposure to parasites in water bodies and can have serious health consequences. Schistosomiasis is endemic in Ethiopia and affects more than 15 million people.

"The control and elimination of schistosomiasis and other NTDs by 2030 is part of the Ministry of Health's national strategic plan. We look forward to Merck's long-standing support for our national efforts through the large-scale provision of treatments for many years and additional initiatives such as the Schistosomiasis Storytelling Lab," said Fikre Seife, National Program Manager on Neglected Tropical Diseases at the Ethiopian Ministry of Health.

Merck is firmly committed to eliminating schistosomiasis. The company has taken an integrated approach in close collaboration with partners around the world, combining treatment, research and development, health education and advocacy. The company supplies up to 250 million tablets each year to WHO to treat schistosomiasis in sub-Saharan Africa. To date, Merck has donated two billion tablets, helping to treat approximately 800 million people.

"One of our three Sustainable Development Goals aims to improve the lives of one billion people by 2030. Our schistosomiasis elimination program contributes substantially to this goal. As a family-owned company, we think in terms of generations rather than years, which is why we are committed to fighting schistosomiasis until it is finally eliminated," said Ramsey Morad, Senior Vice President and Head of the Middle East, Africa, Turkey and Russia/CIS (MEAR) region at Merck.

The Schistosomiasis Storytelling Lab run by Merck aims to increase disease-specific knowledge among at-risk groups, and supports national efforts to combat NTDs with additional health education tools, tailored to the local context. Between 18 and 22 March, a group of Ethiopian storytellers met to develop innovative educational solutions focused on schistosomiasis. A panel of judges selected the best solution, which received a prize of 10,000 euros. A group that presented a multimedia participatory theatre that raised awareness about schistosomiasis among young adult men working in sugar factories was chosen as the winner. The team will now start work on the implementation of its project in collaboration with Merck.

"We saw some compelling presentations today and it wasn't easy to pick just one. In the end, we chose Team Buna because it is an innovative and locally applicable solution that can also be adapted to the surrounding communities," said Johannes Waltz, Head of the Schistosomiasis Elimination Program at Merck, after the final presentations.


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