President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has expressed concerns over the stigmatisation of women with infertility challenges in Africa.
He said according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 50 per cent of the cases of couples’ inability to conceive were caused by infertility in men.
However, the economic, psychological and socio-cultural burden of infertility fell disproportionately on women.
“From being abandoned, depressed, humiliated, insulted, maltreated and stigmatised, women suffer the most,” he said when he opened the 6th edition of the Merck Africa Asia Luminary in Accra yesterday.
The two-day event co-chaired by the First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo will discuss strategies on building healthcare capacity particularly in tackling health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, cancer and fertility care on the African continent.
With over 500 participants comprising healthcare providers, policy makers, academia and researchers, the conference also had in attendance First Ladies from 10 African countries including Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Malawi and Sierra Leone.
The rest were from Zimbabwe, Liberia, Zambia and Nigeria.
President Akufo-Addo appealed to the First Ladies, policy makers and healthcare practitioners who attended the event to help win the battle against the stigmatisation of females with infertility.
He shared the challenges most childless women faced in Ghana and indicated that such women were often treated as outcast.
He said the challenges in Ghana were representative of the unfortunate situation prevailing in other parts of the continent.
President Akufo-Addo noted that the women who suffered from infertility did not wish the situation on themselves, whether the cause of their problem was anatomical, endocrinological, genetic or immunological.
“Yes, there may be other factors, such as infections to the reproductive system and poor health practices, which are preventable and may result in infertility”.
“However, the onus is on each and every one of us to work hard towards finding solutions to addressing infertility and ending stigmatization”, he said
President Akufo-Addo urged participants of the conference to take urgent steps to incorporate issues regarding infertility prevention and its treatment in the development of maternal and reproductive healthcare policies.
“We need to train more gynaecologists and embryologists, and we must, most certainly, make assisted reproductive technology, often referred to as in vitro fertilisation (IVF), affordable and more available to the majority of women on the continent, who are faced with infertility,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo touched on the government’s efforts towards the treatment of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension, diabetes, sickle cell disease, asthma and cancer.
Those diseases, he said, were estimated to account for more deaths than those occasioned by communicable diseases in Ghana.
He said the government had developed a non-communicable diseases policy to reduce exposure to risk factors that contributed to such diseases.
Also, he said the policy would help strengthen early detection and management to reduce morbidity and mortality from non-communicable diseases and strengthen multi-sectoral collaboration for prevention and control
“Indeed, Ghana plans to achieve, by 2030, Universal Health Coverage (UHC), which we define, in the Ghanaian context, as follows: ‘All people in Ghana have timely access to high quality health services irrespective of ability to pay at the point of use’,” the President added.
In her address, First Lady, Mrs Akufo-Addo advised against the mocking and stigmatisation of infertile couples as member countries increase sensitisation on infertility.
“Blaming, mocking and shunning of perceived infertile couples must stop. It is everyone’s responsibility to empower infertile couples, fight against stigmatisation, change mindsets, influence national policies on fertility and build fertility care capacity in Africa and developing countries,” she said.
Mrs Akufo-Addo was optimistic the coming on board of First Ladies across the continent would advance efforts in dealing with infertility issues saying, “this is a movement of empathy, respect, empowerment and recognition and I and my sister First Ladies are truly proud to be part of this movement.”
On her part, Dr Rasha Kelej, Chief Executive Officer of the Merck Foundation said her outfit would continue to help the vulnerable especially women and children, and also help train doctors for quality healthcare delivery.
By Yaw Kyei, Abigail Annoh and Agnes Opoku Sarpong