Namibia: Break Infertility Stigma - Geingos

President Hage Geingob and First Lady Monica Geingos of Namibia.

First lady Monica Geingos says Africans need to break the stigma around infertility to empower women.

Speaking during the Ongwediva Medipark safe motherhood campaign at Okahao in Omusati region on Saturday, Geingos said this can be achieved through educating members of the public.

The campaign, now in its fourth cycle this year, complements the government's efforts to reduce maternal mortality. Over 150 women received free antenatal screening at the town.

"Medipark safe motherhood campaign is the most consequential maternal health campaign in Namibia, if not the SADC region," she said.

Geingos is an ambassador of the Merck More than a Mother Campaign which focuses on breaking the stigma around infertile women in Africa. She used Saturday's platform to encourage sensitivity towards couples who are struggling to have children, shedding light on the issue of infertility in the country and highlighting how untreated infections lead to infertility.

She was, however, quick to add that there are no available statistics on the subject, as fertility testing is a costly exercise in Namibia done only at private hospitals.

She said she too was put under pressure when she married president Hage Geingob with social media platforms awash with jokes about whether she had conceived yet.

Geingos, who has children from a previous relationship, said if her husband had been a strong believer of the notion "I must cement my marriage by getting a child," she would have been really under pressure.

Furthermore, Geingos took time to speak to couples and individuals who were willing to share their challenges of child bearing. The media was, however, not part of the "private discussion" even though she feels infertility is a social issue that should be discussed more openly.

Geingos is compiling data for the Merck More than a Mother Campaign on the prevalence of the issue in Namibia.

The first lady also recommitted to championing maternal health issues through the annual safe motherhood campaign and called on the private sector to support the finalisation of the maternal health shelter at Okahao, as this was a project that spoke directly to the dignity of expectant mothers who often travel long distances for medical services.

Ongwediva Medipark managing director Tshali Iithete said they screened 480 mothers in Omusati region two years ago and the large number warranted their return.

"I had never seen so many pregnant women in one place," he joked, but this, he said, indicated to his team the need for such services to be brought closer to the people.

Iithete said Namibia needs to end unnecessary and unacceptable pre-mature births, born by otherwise healthy mothers.

"Improving community health is when we empower people and not building hospitals and clinics," he stressed.

Iithete gave an example of a woman who was giving birth at the Outapi District Hospital and was bleeding profusely, with one of their Medipark Outapi outreach specialists having to rush to the hospital to come to her rescue.

"This could have been a life lost in the process of bringing another into the world," he said.

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