The President of The Republic of Uganda, His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has called for countrywide sensitization of the people about non-genetic the causes of infertility because they are avoidable and preventable.
In a speech read for him by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Hon Jacob Oulanya at the opening ceremony of the International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS) Symposium in Kampala, the President listed poor nutrition, untreated sexually transmitted infections, unsafe abortions, consequences of infections caused by the practice of female genital mutilation, exposure to smoking and to leaded petrol and other environmental pollutants as some of the non-genetic cause of infertility that people should know and avoid.
“Preventive healthcare is not only the right thing to do from a patient perspective but also from a cost perspective, “ the President noted as he commended the planned Ministry of Health strategy of protecting people from diseases and promoting health using Community Extension Workers.
The President also directed the Ministry of Health to come up with a law to regulate the conduct of service providers of health fertility health services as the demand for services continues to grow. “We would need to emphasize issues of ethical conduct of providers, the protection of surrogate mothers and the confidentiality of beneficiaries,” he said.
IFFS is in official relations with WHO and is at the forefront of generating scientific knowledge on infertility and its treatment, advocating for access to infertility service, patient safety and capacity building at national, regional, and global levels. This symposium is the first its kind in sub-Saharan Africa.
The WHO Country Representative in Uganda Dr Tegegn Yonas noted that most people in Africa especially sub-Saharan Africa cannot afford basic health care which makes most fertility treatment especially assisted reproductive technologies to appear elective and cosmetic. “As WHO we think this need to change given severe social, economic and health-related consequences of infertility,” he said.
Dr Tegegn pledged WHO’s continued commitment to promoting safe, non-expensive and effective fertility treatment including assisted reproductive technologies. “We continue to promote justice and the right to reproduction for every woman and man irrespective of status and ethnic grouping,” he said.
Infertility, which is the failure to conceive (regardless of cause) after one year of unprotected intercourse affects approximately 10-15% of reproductive-aged couples. However, global, regional and national estimates of the prevalence and trends of infertility in Africa are significantly underestimated and neglected. Luckily, emerging modern technologies are assisting couples to now have children either on their own or with medical help.
Other speakers at the two-day symposium include Dr Richard Kennedy, President of the IFFS, Professor Oladapo Ashiru, President of Africa Fertility Association and Dr Robert Busingye, President of the Uganda Fertility Association. There are participants from the WHO Regional Office for Africa, headquarters and many international delegates.