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Leaders chew men out over infertility

African First Ladies high level panel at the conference

Oct. 31, 2019 3 min read

3 min read

ACCRA, Ghana – Speakers at the just ended Merck Foundation backed 6th Africa and Asia Luminary conference in Accra, Ghana, reproved men for the encumbrance meted out to women presumed infertile whilst male infertility has been found to be the cause of a couple’s failure to conceive.

The sentiments invigorated former WHO human reproduction specialist Dr Mahmoud Fathalla’s assertion that although male infertility has been found to be the cause of any couple’s failure to conceive in about 50 percent  of cases, the social burden was laid disproportionately on women.

According to WHO demographic studies infertility affects up to 15 percent of reproductive-aged couples worldwide, revealing that in sub-Saharan Africa more than 30 percent of women aged 25 to 49 suffer from secondary infertility, the failure to conceive after an initial first pregnancy – and in many cultures, childless women suffer discrimination, stigma and ostracism.

Speaking in his key note address at the inauguration of the Merck Luminary this week, Ghanaian president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo lamented the status quo which he said left women abandoned, depressed, humiliated, insulted and ill-treated as the same men joined the fray in stigmatizing them.

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President Akufo-Addo appealed for a change of mindset in men as equal contributors to infertility, calling on the multi-sectoral stakeholders converged to chart a new approach towards the prevention, treatment and eventual uprooting of infertility in African communities; a plea heeded by the 9 visiting First Ladies who made it to the gathering, as summed by the hosting First Lady and luminary co-chairperson, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, who assured all present that their interaction and exchange of experiences and vision was becoming a platform fertile for real change in maternal health across Africa and Asia.

The First Ladies committed to partner more effectively with Merck Foundation in restoring women’s dignity within society as a result of abuse borne by stigma on childless women;  having also been appointed ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ ambassadors in their respective countries, focused on identifying challenges, defining solutions, measuring impact and sharing experiences to ensure continuous improvement of the programme.

 Recently drafted in the campaign and awaiting an official launch, the Office of the First Lady of Lesotho was represented in the gathering by a five-man delegation led by the minister in the prime minister’s office Tšehlo Ramarou.

Present to grace the occasion were the  Second Lady of Ghana Samira Bawumia, Denise Nkurunziza the First Lady of Burundi, Brigitte Touadera the First Lady of the Central African Republic, Hinda Deby Int of the Republic of Chad, Clar Weah the First Lady of Republic of Liberia, Professor Gertrude Mutharika the First Lady of Malawi, Fatima Maada the First Lady of Sierra Leone, Aisha Buhari the First Lady of Nigeria, Auxillia Mnangagwa the First Lady of Zimbabwe as well as Esther Lungu the First Lady of Zambia.

Proffesor Dr Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, who is the Chairman of Board of Trustees of Merck Foundation, and CEO Dr Rasha Kelej were also present.

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