• Blog Post

World Health Day 2020 – Our Global Health Institute supports Nurses and Midwives

Publish Date

07 APR 2020


The World Health Day on April 7th is dedicated to nurses and midwives this year. Nurses and midwives are the primary health contact for women in low-and middle-income countries.

Through its Global Health Institute, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, continues to enhance local experience and capacity to minimize the global burden of infectious diseases.

The New Year had just started when our preparation for the first workshop on the “Challenges for Women’s Health in sub-Saharan Africa” was in full swing : together with the University of Tübingen, the Technical University of Munich and the Centre de Recherches Médicales de Lambaréné (CERMEL) in Gabon, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, through its Global Health Institute, supported the HelmVit1 project in preparing and conducting a workshop on integrated approaches for women health, targeting nurses, midwives and gynecologists in Lambaréné.

The following health themes and potential solutions were presented:

Cervical Cancer: Globally, more than 90% of cervical cancer-related deaths are occurring among women in Low-and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs). In many African countries, cervical cancer ranks first in mortality for cancer in women. Today, cervical cancer is mostly preventable and curable, provided a respective strong health system is in place with vaccination, screening and management of pre-cancer and cancer.

Female Genital Schistosomiasis: It is estimated that up to 40 million women, mainly living in sub-Saharan Africa, suffer from female genital schistosomiasis (FGS). FGS which is caused by the parasitic worm disease schistosomiasis, has also recently been associated with horizontal transmission of HIV, rendering it a major cofactor in the African AIDS epidemic in young women. Persistence of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the causative agent for cervical cancer, has also been associated with FGS.

Caesarean Section: Regrettably, 95% of all women who die during childbirth are in LMICs; 65% of these belong to Africa. Suboptimal management of labour, lack of qualified personnel and poor availability of medicines resulting in inadequately performed Caesareans, post-surgical infectious complications, sequelae of anaesthesia and inadequate haemorrhage control are often the key risk factors.

What do these very different health issues have in common?

All these key themes are health issues that are very prominent in women from LMICs especially since nurses and midwives are their primary, and often only, health contact. All three themes can be better addressed with increased awareness of integrated disease management: empower midwives and nurses to provide services for FGS and Cervical Cancer training and screening to identify women at-risk and refer them for life saving early Caesarean Sections. Additionally, nurses and midwives integrated as field researchers could facilitate a comprehensive feedback loop from lowest to highest level.

How do we contribute at our company?

Our mission at the Global Health Institute is to develop transformative health solutions to support control and elimination programs related to infectious diseases carrying a major toll on most vulnerable populations, in particular children and women. We achieve our mission through R&D for new treatments, sensitive diagnostics and enhanced preventive measures, through access paths to ensure sustainable availability and affordability of our products and finally through capacity building to strengthen local health systems. Nurses and midwives play a key role especially in health systems of LMICs and we build strong partnerships to increase the chances of women for a healthier life.

At the occation of the World Health Day, let’s thank nurses and midwives a lot for their outstanding work!


1 HelmVit is a research cooperation between Germany and Gabon, funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) and coordinated by partners in both countries. Besides its core research focus on the effects of helminth infections during pregnancy on childhood immunity and health, it also aims to build capacity for African researchers to investigate topics of local significance and facilitate research opportunities in Africa for German and African scientists. Presently, it has evolved into a comprehensive opportunity to collaborate, raise awareness and build capacity for impactful solutions to challenges of diseases of poverty.
The workshop on the “Challenges for Women’s Health in sub-Saharan Africa” was part of this project and funded by DFG and Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung (DZIF).