ZIMBABWE’S First Lady, Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa in partnership with the Merck Foundation and the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), hosted a half day training to sensitise Zimbabwean Journalists on issues around fertility and infertility.
By Michael Gwarisa
The development comes in the midst of a growing burden in fertility related complications in both women and men in Sub-Saharan Africa largely driven by lifestyle related health conditions and Non Communicable diseases (NCDs).
Giving her remarks during the training, Merck Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Dr Rasha Kelej said there were numerous risk factors leading to infertility in both women and men and the media had an important role in breaking the stigma associated with infertility.
Today, Merck Foundation is providing this health media training. I am so happy not only because of the training but also because of the collaboration we are doing with the media in India and in Africa to capitalise on the significant and important role the media play in sensitising the communities,” said Dr Kelej.
She added that engaging the media was a strong strategy and a successful one and the media should work towards empowering the girl child in boosting her confidence and letting the world know that infertility is a shared responsibility and not just a women issue.
“Infertility has a very high incidence in Africa, one in every four couples are having infertility and more than 85 percent or form 75 to 85 percent as of the latest research can be prevented because its due to untreated infections and diseases which comes from child marriages, comes from unsafe abortions, comes from unsafe deliveries, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), Female Genital Mutilation among other issues.”
Dr Mugove Madziyire a consultant Obstetrician and Merck Foundation Alumini from Zimbabwe said infertility affects men and women equally and is not a mark of shame, therefore there is no need of stigmatising against couples with infertility.
“In Africa, the main purpose of marriage is procreation and if a marriage fails to produce a child, then there tends to be a problem in that relationship. Infertility affects both males and females and the most common infection that affects both the female and male reproductive system is Chlamydia and Ghonorrhoea and these are often asymptomatic and one of the partners might not exhibit a symptom at all,” said Dr Madziyire.
According to Dr Madziyire, some of the risk factors for infertility are poor nutrition, untreated STIs, Unsafe abortions, consequence of infections caused by the practice of female genital mutilation and exposure to smoking, leaded petrol and other environmental pollutants.
Dr Fransisca Bwalaya, a Psychiatrist and Merck Foundation Alumini from Zambia said infertility caused a number of mental health issues in couples and there was need to break the stigma associated with infertility.
“We can actually see that a good proportion of the Africa continent has a high burden of infertility. The issue of fertility is quite significant for us. In developing countries, fertility is associated to an individual’s identity thus, Infertility has potential to cause social and psychosocial stress. The thought of voluntary child free status is not culturally acceptable, making it difficult to conceal infertility. Social and psychosocial distress related to infertility is high in developing countries. Society behaves different towards individuals experiencing infertility,” said Dr Bwalya.
Dr Pascal Chinwada, a Physician at Sally Mugabe Hospital said lifestyle diseases were behind the increase in infertility in Africa and Zimbabwe in general and “There is need for media to promote healthy lifestyles and awareness on early detection of Diabetes and Hypertension.”
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Union Of Journalists (ZUJ) Secretary General, Mr Perfect Hlongwane said while the role of Journalists is to inform, educate and entertain, the emergence of increased infertility burden calls for an advocacy role from the media.
“As has been mentioned, infertility comes as a result of a number of risk factors including child marriages. It is the duty of Journalists to report on these issues and expose them to as to avoid having high infertility issues in the future. Journalists should raise awareness and report in a manner that does not promote stigma against couples or individuals with infertility issues,” said Mr Hlogwane.