Merck Foundation calls for action to break Africa’s infertility stigma at FIGO

Dubai [UAE], Apr. 16 (BusinessWire India): Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA, Germany, in partnership with the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), conducted 'Merck More Than a Mother' panel at their Regional conference 2018, in Dubai. Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation stated during the panel discussion, "Through 'Merck More than a Mother', we want to bring the healthcare providers, policy makers, academia, women leaders, media, and artists together to define the interventions to break the infertility stigma around women and to build fertility care capacity in Africa and developing countries." She further emphasised, "Merck Foundation is dedicated to empowering women who suffer discrimination and violence due to their inability to bring children, by creating the cultural shift to break the infertility stigma at all levels, not only in Africa, but in Asia, Latin America and everywhere it is needed." The high-level panel discussion included Sarah Opendi, Minister of state of Health, Uganda, Zuliatu Cooper, Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sierra Leone, Margret Mensah-Williams, Chairman of National Council of Namibia, Dr. Chitalu Chilugya, Minister of Health, Zambia, and the CEO of Merck Foundation, Dr. Rasha Kelej. Dr. Chitalu Chilugya, Minister of Health of Zambia, emphasised, "Infertility is one of the major health problems in Zambia, and it is not only affecting the physical health but also the mental well-being and social status, of childless women. These women often become invisible to the society, and many a time they do not want to come in open to seek help because of the social stigma associated with infertility. Together with Merck Foundation, we want to remove the stigma associated with it by creating a cultural shift and building cost-effective fertility care in Zambia." During the panel discussion Margret Mensah-Williams, Chairman of National Council of Namibia, stressed, "Infertility is profoundly prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, which is said to have an "infertility belt" wrapped around its center, the infertility rate is much higher in southern Africa. Particularly in Namibia infertility prevalence rates for some ethnic groups is as high as 32 percent , or one-third of all couples attempting to conceive, which is why initiatives like 'Merck More than a Mother' are significant for Namibia and we are glad to partner with Merck Foundation for this initiative." Zuliatu Cooper, Minister of Health of Sierra Leone emphasised, "Merck Foundation is making history my country, they have trained the first two fertility specialists in Sierra Leone. For the first time, the infertile couple will be treated in their home land. We still need to build the first IVF center to be able to manage complicated cases though." Sarah Opendi, Minister of State of Health, Uganda said, "The journey that Merck Foundation has started is a very special journey that has touched the lives of women who have been forgotten in the communities. It has touched not only women but also the lives of men who have been mistreating their women thinking that infertility is an issue of women, not know that 50 percent infertility is due to the malefactor. I want to thank Merck Foundation for thinking about these women." (BusinessWire India)
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