The First Lady, Monica Geingos, has said infertility in Namibia should be treated like any other health issue: with professionalism, empathy, respect and stigma. "It is not always the women's fault; men too can struggle with infertility. Couples would not know if they are not both exposed to medical examinations and tests," explained Geingos.
The First Lady is part of the Merck Foundation, where First Ladies of African states engage in matters that affect their countries. Recently, the 6th edition of the Merck Africa Asia Luminary was hosted in Ghana's capital, Accra, last month, where Geingos was represented by her Technical Advisor, Dr Veronica Rose Theron.
The First Ladies and their advisors shared experiences, measured impact, discussed challenges, and defined solutions during the Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI) meeting held on October 30, 2019, during the Merck Africa Asia Luminary.
The MFFLI seeks to build healthcare capacity, improve access to health care in Africa and developing countries, raise community awareness, break the stigma of infertility, and empower women and youth through education.
Theron, as head of the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Pillar, has seen cases where husbands pressurised their wives, who could not conceive, to sleep with the younger sisters of their wives. "I have dealt with cases where husbands/partners psychologically and physically abused their spouses/partners who could not conceive," she said.
Theron said there is need for interventions to curb these types of mentalities in societies. "We need to educate ourselves regarding the causes of infertility and how it can be prevented or treated," she advised.
She said no scientific studies have been done yet, but informal dialogues with women in regions revealed that the numbers are much more than they anticipated. "Office of the First Lady gathered 16 women in one region just by contacting health practitioners in that region to identify patients on their system who were willing to talk about their challenges," she sad.
Theron highlighted preventative measures that can be undertaken as far as infertility is concerned. "The treatment of infections that might lead to infertility should be done properly; infertility in men can be prevented by not overusing steroids or misusing illicit drugs or substances. Furthermore, women should undergo regular medical checks for proper treatment and advice after miscarriages, difficulties to conceive and other sexual reproductive health-related issues," recommended Theron.
The First lady as the Ambassador for the Merck 'More Than A Mother' campaign is elated to officially launch the campaign during February 2020. The campaign will focus on breaking the stigma of infertility, empowering couples and women through access to information, health care and economic empowerment.
"The Office of the First Lady will work in close collaboration with Ministry of Health and Social Services, Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, and Ministry of Information Communication and Technology; private health care institutions such as MediPark, Bel Esprit Private Mental Hospital; media practitioners; fashion industry; film industry; music artists; infertile women; the community, and church leaders," assured Theron.