FIRST lady Monica Geingos says stigma about infertility is a cause for concern and there are women who have been rejected by their partners due to this condition.
Geingos made the remarks last week at the ninth Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary Conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Fifteen first ladies from African countries in partnership with the Merck Foundation attended the two-day hybrid conference.
This was the first conference of the foundation attended physically post-pandemic. The last physical event was the sixth edition of the conference, which was held in Ghana’s capital, Accra, in 2019.
Geingos said some couples and individuals who suffer from infertility often bear the burden of having to fund their treatment or find money to pay private healthcare providers.
“My office has also engaged organisations and churches to sensitise them on fertility matters,” she added.
Geingos commended the Merck Foundation for sensitising mindsets on dealing with different societal issues.
“Infertility is often linked to other issues such as mental health and alcohol abuse, hinting at the need for an integrated approach to the treatment of infertility. The focus has been on Covid and issues such as infertility continue to be neglected,” Geingos said.
The president of the Fertility Society of Ghana, Dr Edem Hiadzi, said fertility does not only affect women, but half of the cases are due to men.
“In sub-Saharan Africa, sexually transmitted infections, especially gonorrhea and chlamydia, account for significant cases of male infertility.”
She said causes of infertility are attributed to males in 40% of the cases, female (40%), men and women jointly (15%) while 5% of the cases are unexplained
“Men should support partners who are not falling pregnant, as fertility is a shared responsibility and not a stigma. Don’t blame the woman unless you check yourself and consult your doctor first,” said Hiadzi.
The chief executive officer of the Merck Foundation, Dr Rasha Kalej, during a health media training workshop last week urged media representatives from more than 35 countries to create a culture shift by raising awareness about social and health issues like breaking infertility stigma, supporting girl education, ending child marriage, ending gender-based violence and raising awareness about early detection and prevention of diabetes and hypertension.
Merck Foundation founder Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp said: “I am glad we are here to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Merck Foundation and 10 years of building health capacity and development programmes since 2012.”
Stangenberg-Haverkamp has described the foundation’s journey as successful as significant transformation continued to be made in the lives of many people through the foundation.
He acknowledged the great efforts of healthcare providers by fulfilling their duties, especially during the pandemic.
The conference was also attended by healthcare providers, policymakers, academics, researchers and journalists from different African countries who benefited from educational and social development sessions by international experts in diabetes fertility, oncology, women’s health, cardiology, endocrinology, respiratory and acute medicine and health media training.