Merck Healthcare, Women MPs, call for comprehensive reproductive healthcare to overcome infertility stigma


10 Jul 2015 | by
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Merck Healthcare, Women MPs, call for comprehensive reproductive healthcare to overcome infertility stigma

Merck, a leading company for innovative and top-quality high-tech products in healthcare, life science and performance materials, in collaboration with the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA), are rooting for access to adequate comprehensive reproductive health services, including fertility, which is a basic right regardless of the individual’s economic circumstances...........

 Merck, a leading company for innovative and top-quality high-tech products in healthcare, life science and performance materials, in collaboration with the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA), are rooting for  access to adequate comprehensive reproductive health services, including fertility, which is a basic right regardless of the individual’s economic circumstances.

Dr Belen Garijo, CEO and Board Member of Merck Healthcare, stated it was the responsibility of everyone in the society to help address challenges associated with infertility, prevent infertility and carry out awareness against stigma and discrimination.The social stigma of childlessness, especially for infertile women, still leads to isolation and stigmatization in many cultures,” said Garijo during the launch of Merck’s Capacity Advancement Programme (CAP) at the University of Nairobi.

CAP  brings together health stakeholders to provide medical education and awareness for medical students and general practitioners in Kenya, as well as address the social perception of infertile women, besides raising awareness about male infertility and the necessity for a team approach to family building among couples.Infertility has a negative social, emotional, psychological, financial, and political impact on the lives of married Kenyan women dealing with it,” said Garijo.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2014 report, more than 180 million couples in developing countries (one in every four couples) suffer from primary or secondary infertility.Garijo said that in sub-Saharan Africa, infertility is caused by infections in over 85 per cent of women compared to 33 per cent worldwide, which emphasizes the importance of prevention programmes in the continent.

On the elimination of stigma and discrimination in the country, Taita Taveta Women Representative Joyce Lay challenged stakeholders in the society to create a culture shift in a bid to dispel myths associated with infertile women in Kenya.“The central difficulty associated with infertility in developing countries is that infertility transforms from an acute, private agony into a harsh, public stigma with complex and devastating consequences. There is need for a systemic shift in the current culture of gender discrimination in the context of fertility care in African societies,” said Lay, adding that the harsh reality is that infertility in Kenya, and indeed Africa, is widely regarded as a female complication.

“The society conveniently ignores the fact that men too are prone to infertility due to low sperm count which is caused by a number of issues. And for all reasons, “Fertility is a Shared Responsibility”  supported by Merck Healthcare, will no doubt shape the conversations around fertility and help end gender discrimination associated with childlessness,” said Lay.

She added: “In men, the reasons could be poor quality sperm, low sperm count and poor motility, while in the case of women, infection, tubal ligation, ectopic pregnancy, cases of uterus or ovulation problems could lead to infertility. One in 4 women visiting a gynaecologist in Kenya today has some difficulties conceiving”. Dr Joy Noreh, administrator and co-founder of the Nairobi IVF Centre, said that almost a quarter of Kenyan men and nearly a fifth of Kenyan women are infertile, with the majority not being aware of their condition.

Noreh added that Kenyans will only challenge the stigma if more platforms are created for people to share knowledge and ideas.Merck CAP is a five- year programme aiming to expand the professional capacity in developing countries in the areas of research and development, advocacy building, supply-chain integrity and efficiency, pharmacovigilance, medical education and community awareness.

 In partnership with University of Nairobi, it provides accredited medical education and awareness for medical postgraduates and healthcare providers from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in collaboration with EXCEMED and international fertility experts from Spain, Canada and Indonesia to improve patient access to safe and effective fertility care.

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