By REBECCA MUSHOTA in Accra, GHANA
FIRST Lady Esther Lungu has said there is need to raise awareness on the issues that help prevent infertility such as untreated diseases and early pregnancies.
Ms Lungu said in Ghana yesterday that infertility was usually related to other factors such as untreated infectious diseases, early marriage, teenage pregnancies and unsafe abortions, a fact that needed awareness.
The First Lady said this when she spoke at the high level first ladies panel discussion during the sixth Merck Foundation Africa-Asia Luminary in Accra Ghana which was co hosted by Ghanaian first lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo and Merck Foundation.
The seventh edition would be hosted in Lusaka and would be co-hosted by Ms Lungu and Merck Foundation.
Ms Lungu said first ladies had a role to play to provide an enabling environment for stakeholders to counter infertility and stigma against the infertile as well as emphasise that prevention was key.
“Campaigns should not only aim at cultural shift on infertility but to raise awareness that infertility is preventable and the challenge is aligned with other health issues,” she said.
Ms Lungu said 85 per cent of infertility is caused by untreated infectious diseases, child marriages, unsafe abortions and unsafe child bearing.
There was also need to discuss that 50 per cent of infertility was caused by men.
Ms Lungu said Zambia supported Merck Foundation’s efforts in dealing with infertility like the foundation’s intellectual capacity improving programmes that involve training of Zambian doctors in oncology and embryology and media practitioners training, among others.
She said Zambia had set up a committee on infertility that would address challenges of traditions that prevented men involvement in in fertility issues, stopped women from inheriting property because of infertility, surrogacy and adoption.
Earlier Ghanain President Nana Akufo-Addo said when he officially opened the gathering that even though infertility was
50 per cent of the time in men, the economic and psychological burden mostly fell on women.
President Akufo-Addo said Africa experienced high divorce rate among infertile women while other infertile women could not inherit property once their husbands died.
He said it was a matter of urgency to treat many gynacologists and embroloists in order to deal with such issues.
The Ghanaian First Lady said the blaming, mocking and gossiping of people having infertility issues should stop and more infertility facilities should be established in Africa.
Merck Foundation board chairperson Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp said Merck Foundation was foccused on finding lasting solutions to various health problems in Africa while recognising that many African countries faced funding problems.
Dr Stangenberg-Haverkamp said one way to resolve the health challenges in Africa was developing of capacity of health personnel in Africa.
Other first ladies who participated in the luminary came from Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Malawi, Liberia, Burundi, Central African Republic and Chad.
Ms Lungu was also given a recognition award for her support to the Merck More than a Mother programme that seeks to find solutions to infertility and to stigma.