Analysis: MUMBA MWANSA
ACCORDING to the World Health Organisation, more than 180 million couples, which is about one in four couples, suffer from primary or secondary infertility.
Infertility is still one of the challenges Africa, and Zambia in particular, is grappling with, which needs every individual’s intervention. In sub-Saharan Africa, infertility is said to be caused by infections in over 85 percent of women as compared to only 33 percent world over.
This, therefore, is the reason we, Africans, need to come together to address this social stigma of childlessness, especially for infertile women, as it leads to isolation and stigmatisation in our cultures.
In so doing, a philanthropic organisation called Merck Foundation has come on board to empower infertile women through access to information, education, health and change of mindset. This is being done through its programme called ‘Merck more than a mother’ campaign.
I was recently privileged to attend Merck Foundation’s conference in Dakar, Senegal, where the First Lady Esther Lungu pledged to ensure that infertility prevention is tackled in Zambia.
First and foremost, we all need to be aware that infertility is a shared responsibility for both men and women, who should stay strong together. It does not affect women only.
Infertility is one of the most common conditions affecting the reproductive age group between 20 and 45 years, and statistics show that about half of its causes are due to, or include, male factors.
Some traditional, cultural and religious practices in Africa have been associated with higher levels of non-genetic and preventable causes of infertility such as poor nutrition, untreated sexually transmitted diseases, unsafe abortions, and exposure to smoking, leaded petrol and other environmental pollutants.
There is need for a change in our cultural mindset if Zambia is to attain its goal to prevent infertility. In our cultures, the inability to have a child or to become pregnant can result in being greatly isolated, disinherited or even assaulted, thereby causing divorce physical or psychological violence.
However, with Merck Foundation’s ‘Merck more than a mother’ campaign, Africa, and Zambia in particular, has a brighter future of tackling the problem of infertility.
This is because the campaign shall give an opportunity to our medical personnel to attend specialist training on how to build and advance fertility care capacity among women in Zambia.
It shall also define interventions to break the stigma around infertility by improving awareness, building advocacy in cooperation with decision-makers, and by supporting childless women in starting their own small businesses.
With the intervention of Government, let us therefore make ‘Merck more than a mother’ campaign a reality in Zambia.
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail sub-editor.
Analysis: MUMBA MWANSA