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HomeHealthMedia Critical In Fighting Stigma Against Infertility, Merck Foundation CEO Dr Rasha Kelej Says

Media Critical In Fighting Stigma Against Infertility, Merck Foundation CEO Dr Rasha Kelej Says

Stigma Infertility Merck Foundation

The media plays a critical role in fighting the stigma against infertility and should be central in spreading awareness with regard to fertility, Merck Foundation CEO Dr Rasha Kelej said.

Merck Foundation chief executive officer Senator Dr Rasha Kelej, who is also the President of the “More Than a Mother” Campaign and Chairperson of the Africa Reproductive Care Society (ARCS), said this at the virtual awareness World Infertility Awareness Summit 2024 hosted by the Merck Foundation and the Africa Reproductive Care Society.

Dr Kelej said: “I urge media to raise infertility awareness and fight stigma. Infertility affects one in four couples in Africa, with 50% caused by both male and female factors. Infertility is often considered a taboo topic in many African cultures and societies. We at Merck Foundation are Creating a culture shift, raising awareness, training, and building advocacy in developing countries and under-served communities.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) posits that one in every six people of reproductive age worldwide experience infertility in their lifetime. The WHO adds that in the male reproductive system, infertility is most commonly caused by problems in the ejection of semen, absence or low levels of sperm, or abnormal shape and movement of the sperm. In the female reproductive system, infertility may be caused by a range of abnormalities of the ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, and the endocrine system, among others.

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In Africa, infertility affects 13.1% of the population, according to a 2023 World Health Organization (WHO) meta-analysis. The global average is between 12.6–17.5% for reproductive-aged couples. In most African communities, infertility is often blamed on women when men also experience it.

It is, therefore, critical for the media to break these misconceptions and stigma and bring more awareness to infertility.

President of Africa Reproductive Care Society (ARCS), who doubles as the President of The Academy of Medicine Specialties of Nigeria, Professor Oladapo Ashiru, said:

“Reproductive issues are often considered private and not discussed openly. Infertility is often viewed as a personal failure or a sign of weakness. Infertility affects one in four couples in Africa, with 50 per cent caused by male and female factors. Cultural and societal expectations often put pressure on the affected to conform to traditional family norms and expectations. Infertility can be a sensitive and emotional topic, thereby making it difficult for people to discuss openly.

“Breaking the silence and stigma surrounding infertility can help by raising awareness and understanding. This can open conversations and reduce feelings of isolation for affected couples. The energy and passion of the Merck Foundation are a testament to the support for those affected. The Foundation has supported over 570 fertility specialists and embryologists in Africa through scholarships, resulting in improved access to infertility care.”

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