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Main » 2024 » April » 3 » Merck Continues the Fight against Schistosomiasis in a Storytelling Lab
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Merck Continues the Fight against Schistosomiasis in a Storytelling Lab

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - Tuesday, 02. April 2024 AETOSWire

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

(BUSINESS WIRE) -- Merck, a leading science and technology company, announced the winners of its 2024 Bilharzia Storytelling Lab in Ethiopia. This innovative initiative aims to develop creative solutions in order to raise awareness about schistosomiasis and, in doing so, bring about behavioral change.

Schistosomiasis is one of the most prevalent parasitic diseases and affects more than 240 million people worldwide. It is a chronic condition and is classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of 21 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). NTDs are poverty-related diseases with a very high economic and social impact. The disease, also known as bilharzia, is transmitted through skin exposure to parasites in water bodies and can result in serious health consequences. Schistosomiasis is endemic in Ethiopia and affects more than 15 million people.

“It is part of the national strategic plan of the Ministry of Health to control and eliminate schistosomiasis and other NTDs by 2030. We welcome Merck’s long-standing support of our national efforts through the large-scale provision of treatments for many years and additional initiatives like the Bilharzia Storytelling Lab,” said Fikre Seife, the National Neglected Tropical Disease Program Manager at the Ethiopian Ministry of Health.

Merck is fully committed to the elimination of schistosomiasis. The company has adopted an integrated approach in close collaboration with partners worldwide, combining treatment, research and development, health education, and advocacy. The company provides up to 250 million tablets annually to WHO to treat schistosomiasis across sub-Saharan Africa. So far, Merck has donated two billion tablets, enabling around 800 million people to be treated.

“One of our three sustainability goals aims at improving the lives of one billion people until 2030. Our schistosomiasis elimination program contributes to this goal substantially. As a family-owned business we think in generations rather than years which is why we committed ourselves to fight schistosomiasis until its elimination for good.” says Ramsey Morad, SVP & Head MEAR - Middle East, Africa, Turkey & Russia/CIS at Merck.

The Bilharzia Storytelling Lab run by Merck aims to increase disease-specific knowledge among risk groups and supports national efforts to combat NTDs with additional health education tools customized to the local context. From March 18 to 22, a group of Ethiopian storytellers came together to develop innovative educational solutions focusing on schistosomiasis. A board of judges selected the best solution, which was presented with an award of €10,000. A group that presented a multimedia participatory theatre creating awareness about bilharzia for young male adults working at sugar factories was selected as the winner. The team will now start working on the implementation of their project in collaboration with Merck.

“We have seen great pitches today and it wasn’t easy to pick only one. In the end, we decided on Team Buna because it is an innovative and locally applicable solution, which is also scalable to surrounding communities,” said Johannes Waltz, Head of the Merck Schistosomiasis Elimination Program, after the final pitches.

Read more about how Merck is committed to eliminating schistosomiasis:


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Antonia Asche


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