Opinion: Merck Foundation CEO, Dr. Rasha Kelej on bringing 11 African singers together, for a tribute song supporting frontline COVID-19 medics

Singers from 11 African countries for the first time together in one song in three languages to support our medical staff during Corona virus battle . As part of my personal contribution to the response to Corona virus pandemic , I have directed and produced for the first time , a song by singers from 11 African countries in three languages , English , French and Arabic to show our support for medical workers around the world.

In what has now become a global way of showing support and appreciation for medical workers around the world, I have thought of creating an inspiring pan African song called “My White Army “ which aims to thank the doctors and nurses fighting on the front lines of the coronavirus battle , who are risking exposure to the virus so everyone else can stay home and stay healthy .

I am very proud that I have been able to coordinate, direct and produce this gesture of support across 11 African countries through these 11 talented singers in three languages Arabic, English and French.

They have amazing voices, great diversity. They are from countries of north , south , east and west Africa. It was very difficult especially during the lockdown but they were all super cooperative and we finally did it together.

The video features: A Pass from Uganda,  Cwezi from Ghana,  Kambua from Kenya,  Mahmoud Al Laithy From Egypt,  Niki from Nigeria,  Rozi from Sierra Leone,  Salatiel from Cameroon, Sean K from Namibia, Sunita from The Gambia, Tom close from Rwanda, and Wezi from Zambia.

Although I am not a professional director or producer as you all know , I have a different career as CEO of Merck Foundation, but I have previous experience in production and presenting TV programs in Abu Dhabi TV, and I have also produced and directed many documentaries with the aim of breaking the stigma around infertile women and to empower women and girls in education in Africa and Asia as part of Merck foundation programs.

So I believe I have the talent and experience needed , most importantly I have the vision of  an inclusive Africa , all regions of Africa , north, south , west and East in one work and one Initiative that goes across the whole continent and the whole world .

I know many people wonder how I coordinated these efforts between 11 singers in 11 countries especially during the lock down. In fact I have very strong connections and wide network in Africa at all levels. It is easy for me to start programs , coordinate and mobilize people.

I am an African woman who is fortunate to have this love and respect within African communities. About the topic of the song , I strongly believe , It’s important people on the front lines , doctors , nurses and health workers know how grateful we are. I don’t want this to be a one-off thank you, but one that becomes a regular act of gratitude across our communities.

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I heard horrible behavior against our health workers , such as landlords are forcefully evicting them due to paranoia that they might spread Covid-19. It is a shocking illegal and inhuman behaviour.

Through this song we are expressing our love, respect and gratitude for doctors , nurses and health workers, on the front lines of corona virus battle. It is our messages of support for those braving the outbreak to help others. I believe this is the first time in Africa and may be in the world that 11 singers from 11 African countries in three languages participate in one song. We are making history .

I hope our doctors and nurses would feel special listening to this unique song and appreciate our initiative to show our love and respect. This song is my personal contribution to covid-19 response .

But at the professional level, through Merck foundation , we have raced to respond to corona virus in Africa in partnership with 18 First Ladies in four main focus areas which include the support of the livelihood of thousands of casual workers and women during the lock down, launching “Stay at Home Media Recognition Awards”, and building healthcare capacity through providing online one year diploma for African doctors in Respiratory medicines and Acute Medicines .

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