President Akufo-Add calls for an end to stigmatisation of infertility Featured

President Akufo-Addo exchanges pleasantries with some dignitaries at the Merck Africa Asia Luminary yesterday. Behind him is First Lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo President Akufo-Addo exchanges pleasantries with some dignitaries at the Merck Africa Asia Luminary yesterday. Behind him is First Lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has challenged policy makers, healthcare practitioners, as well as First Ladies of African countries, to help raise the awareness on the stigmatisation of females with infertility and ensure that the battle against it is won.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 186 million people around the world suffer from either primary or secondary infertility, with 50 per cent of cases of a couple’s inability to conceive caused by infertility in men.

Making reference to this information, the President stated that the economic, psychological and social-cultural burdens “fall disproportionately on women.”

Formally opening the 6th edition of the Merck Africa Asia Luminary, held at the Kempinksi Hotel in Accra yesterday, the President bemoaned the manner in which women are mostly “abandoned, depressed, humiliated, insulted, maltreated and stigmatised.”

African story

President Akufo-Addo disclosed that it is estimated in Cote d’Ivoire, for example, that 26 per cent of infertile women, compared with three per cent of fertile women, have never been married. In Ethiopia, it is said that 85 per cent of childless marriages end in divorce in five years.

In Tanzania, “a childless widow may not inherit her husband’s wealth”.

In South Africa, a survey conducted revealed higher levels of anxiety, depression and anger amongst infertile women.

In Ghana, President Akufo-Addo stated, “a woman who is infertile risks being treated as an outcast, and having her marriage ending.”

“These cases, I believe, are not peculiar to these countries only, but are also representative of the unfortunate situation prevailing on the continent. It must end,” he added.

The factors that lead to infertility, whether anatomical, endocrinological, genetic or immunological, he said, are not ones women wish on themselves.

“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 stigmatisation,” he added.

As a matter of necessity, the President urged participants at the conference to “take urgent steps to incorporate issues regarding infertility prevention and its treatment in the development of maternal and reproductive healthcare policies of our respective countries.”

“We need to train more gynaecologists and embryologists, and we must, most certainly, make assisted reproductive technology, often referred to as in vitro fertilization (IVF), affordable and more available to the majority of women on the continent, who are faced with infertility,” he added.

Ghana’s NCD policy

President Akufo-Addo said, whilst working towards confronting issues of infertility in Ghana, the country is also raising awareness on disease prevention, and improving access to quality and equitable health solutions, in conformity with the country’s Consolidated Programme of Economic and Social Development Policies (2017-2024), the nation’s blue print for its medium-term development.

“We are focusing on the prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as hypertension, diabetes, sickle cell disease, asthma and cancer, which are estimated to account for more deaths than those occasioned by communicable diseases in Ghana,” he added.

The objectives of Ghana’s non-communicable diseases policy are to reduce exposure to risk factors that contribute to NCDs; to strengthen early detection and management to reduce morbidity and mortality from NCDs; to strengthen multi-sectoral collaboration for NCD Prevention and Control; and to ensure sustainable funding and other resources for NCDs.

“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 stated.

He cited the example of the work being done with the Novartis Foundation, where ICT innovation is being piloted in the management of hypertensive patients.

“Through the use of ICT, patients receive SMS messages on treatment and adherence support, refill reminders, and healthy lifestyle messages on their cell phones. These have resulted in significant reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure after 6 months follow-up,” President Akufo-Addo said.


Earlier, Ghana’s First Lady, Rebecca Naa Okaikor Akufo-Addo, who addressed the audience, admonished society against mocking and stigmatising perceived infertile couples. He rather asked that people empathise with them and influence national policies on enhancing fertility care.

Mrs Akufo-Addo said this year’s conference will deliberate extensively on infertility, to identify avenues of changing mind-sets towards perceived infertile couples, and resourcing further research to build fertility care capacity in Africa and developing countries.

She is optimistic that after five years of providing the platform for brilliant, engaging scientific discussions that have raised awareness and collaboration around diabetes, fertility, oncology and other health issues, the 6th edition of the Merck Luminary will end with the formulation and planned implementation of programmes that will address the challenges of infertility.

The First Lady expressed immense gratitude to her fellow participating First Ladies from other African countries for being part of the great movement against infertility in Africa.

“This is a movement of empathy, respect, empowerment and recognition of which your collective involvement is imperative to its success,” she stated.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 30 October 2019 07:37


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