Science and technology company, Merck, is empowering infertile women in Africa through their More than a Mother campaign by improving access to information, health, change of mind-set and economic empowerment.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), lower levels of development are thought to be associated with higher levels of non-genetic and preventable causes of infertility. This includes poor nutrition; untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs); unsafe abortion; consequence of infections caused by the practice of female genital mutilation; exposure to smoking and to leaded petrol and other environmental pollutants.

“In Africa including Uganda, infertile women still suffer discrimination, stigma and ostracism. More often an inability to have a child or to become pregnant results in the woman being greatly isolated, disinherited or assaulted. This sometimes also results in divorce or physical and psychological violence,” said Minister of State of Health, Uganda, Sarah Opendi.

“I am glad to see an initiative that addresses this challenge in the public domain in Africa as it is something that no one talks about and is treated as secret. Merck More than a Mother is therefore very important for Africa since it aims to define interventions to reduce the stigma and social suffering of infertile women across the continent,” continued Opendi.

The Merck More than a Mother initiative aims to create a culture shift to de-stigmatise infertility and to build respect and understanding around infertile women in Africa. This is achieved by raising awareness about infertility prevention management and male infertility by integrating the topics into existing healthcare infrastructure, such as HIV, maternal health and mother and child programmes.

The initiative also believes in building advocacy and open dialogue and working closely with governments, policy makers, parliaments, healthcare providers, fertility experts and the media to define interventions that will reduce social suffering and improve access to regulated, effective and safe fertility care in Africa.

“I believe in women empowerment and especially childless women – they are mistreated and discriminated in many cultures for being unable to have children and start a family,” said CEO of Merck Healthcare, Belén Garijo.

“Empowering these women through access to information, health and change of mind set to remove the stigma of infertility is needed. Through Merck More than a Mother we are supporting this strong message together with our partners and we will continue our commitment to improve access to regulated and effective fertility care in Africa,” concluded Garijo.

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