160 million couples suffer from infertility -Kenya admin. Secretary

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Kenya chief administrative secretary at the country’s Ministry of Health Dr. Rashid A. Aman has said that 160 million couples suffered from infertility; with most of them coming from developing and poorer nations globally.

Addressing participants at the Merck More Than a Mother 2017 media recognition awards in Nairobi, Kenya, Dr. Aman said in Sub-Saharan Africa, untreated sexually transmitted infections are responsible for up to 85% of infertility among women seeking infertility care.

The award is organized by Merck Foundation. The ceremony brought together 300 journalists from 17 African countries, African ministers of health and musicians.

According to him, infertility and childlessness is a devastating condition since culturally, parenting is deemed compulsory in African settings. He said infertility may have a negative impact physiologically on marital division and often be associated with sexual and gender based violence.

Dr. Aman noted that infertility has been a health problem for many years in Kenya while reiterating his government’s determination in ensuring that its citizens have access to affordable quality health services. He said his ministry has developed health policies that address infertility and other reproductive health issues, adding that the ministry has also integrated fertility prevention, care and treatment into its policies and programs of maternal and reproductive health. 

Dr. Rasha Kelej, chief executive officer of Merck Foundation who is also the president of ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ underscored the significance of the awards, saying they are meant to honor the winners for their outstanding journalistic coverage to break the stigma around infertility and infertile women in African communities. “The award is also with the aim to emphasize the role of media in enhancing public engagement and understanding of infertility stigma and the need to change its social perception.”

Ugandan minister of State of Health Sarah Opendi said infertility has been a major challenge, saying WHO estimates that 25% of the countries have actually had challenges on infertility.

According to her, the burden for the blame has gone to the women and matters have further been compounded by the fact that surveys have been based on women infertility and therefore men infertility remains unknown not only on the African continent but globally.

She stressed the need for African countries to work hard and get men involved while thanking Merck Foundation for coming up with the initiative of not only “de-stigmatizing” infertility but also creating awareness about it. 

Opendi said the clinical definition of infertility provided by the World Health Organization is “a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse” with number of factors including genetics; environmental exposures and infectious diseases which have been linked to infertility risk while infertility can affect both men and women. 

Author: Isatou Senghore-Njie in Nairobi, Kenya