Dr Thabo Matsaseng, Fertility expert at the headquarters of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that tubal blockade and damages resulting from caesarean section surgeries are compounding the risks factors of infertility in women.
He said scientific evidence shows that scars of caesarean sections, not the only risk factor, though, of infertility was posing greater threat to infertility in women, which needed to be addressed through simple strategies of post-partum follow-ups.
Dr Matsaseng said these at the side event of “Development and Implementation of Integrated and Affordable Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) in the African Region,” as part of the 68th WHO-AFRO Regional Committee session in Dakar, Senegal.
He said more than 186 million ever-married women aged between 15-49, in developing countries were infertile, due to primary or secondary infertility, with women bearing the brunt of the inability to conceive, when infertility affects both men and women.
The Fertility Expert said one-in-every-four persons in the African region are infertile with over 50% affecting men, saying sexually transmitted infections and unsafe abortions were other causes.
“Infertility is perceived by many in Sub Saharan Africa as a paradox in family planning and needed to be promoted,”
Dr Matsaseng said evidence available shows that there are enough information and services on family planning for young people to consume but the fear for infertility and sterility distances them from these services, and entreated that a comprehensive sexuality education was waged to assuage their predicament.
He fears the targets set in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), that borders on reproductive health and sexuality, including infections, infertility and HIV, could jeopardize the attainment of the 2030 deadline target, like was the case in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), suspecting that a different target of 2060 was eminent, if these issues remained unattended.
Dr Matsaseng announced that the WHO in the next year or so, has pledged to release guidelines on diagnosis, prevention and treatment of infertility for both men and women, stating that, “The work is in progress and hopes to deliver this guidelines that will set norms and standards.”
Professor Oladapo Aderenle Ashiru, President of the African Fertility Society said ART has evolved in Africa with Nigeria leading the pact with the emergence of its first in-vitro fertilization (IVF) baby in 1989 and later Ghana, in 1995, stating that currently there were 150 fertility clinics operational on the continent.
He said the Society has chalked some successes, including discovering pre-implantation genetic testing mechanism for sickle cell patients to have babies, low dose IVF processes and vaginal incubator technology to facilitate planting fertilized eggs in a woman’s womb to carry.
Prof Ashiru said nutritional toxins emanating from fish contaminated with high metals like mercury, chemical residues from fruits and vegetables, in addition to women driving with bare foot may attract metals and consequently suffer infertility.
Dr Rasha Kelej, Chief Executive of Merck Foundation and President of “Merck More Than A Mother,” said Merck was working tirelessly to break the barriers of culture, stigma and poverty, which impugn fertility issues in the society and urging the media to raise the awareness in these matters to promote comprehensive sexuality education.
She called for consensus building to address infertility in the African region as part of the universal access to reproductive health and rights.
Mrs Sarah Achieng Opendi, Ugandan Minister of Health and General Duties, noted that, fertility care clinics are privately owned and services are expensive for the ordinary people and therefore called on African governments to support the legion of infertile men and women and craft legislations to regulate the services.
She asked men to drop egos and access fertility services since evidence abounds that not every semen carries sperm, a vital stock in making a woman pregnant.