MeRck More than a Mother Initiative

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"Merck more than a Mother" initiative aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education, health and change of mind-set.

Merck more than a Mother will support Governments to define policies to improve access to safe and effective Fertility care and address the need for interventions to reduce stigmatization and social suffering of infertile women and the necessity for a team approach to family building among couples. In partnership with academia and international fertility societies, it will also provide medical education and training for healthcare providers and embryologists to build fertility care capacity in Africa and developing countries.
Through this initiative, together with our partners, we will address together the key challenges that are associated with resource constrained settings such as prevention of infertility, education self-development, ART/IVF regulation, geographic barriers, and limited resources arguments.

The agony of infertility in resource- constrained settings and the social suffering:

Key Issues:

Differences between the developed and developing world are emerging because of the different availability in safe, effective and equitable infertility care different sociocultural value surrounding parenthood and procreation. It is very important to take into consideration that accessible infertility treatment can only be successfully introduced in developing countries if socio-cultural, economic essentials and needed skills are fulfilled and governments are ready to support their introduction.
In order to achieve this objective successfully ,a discussion with the relevant authorities will be needed to discuss the strengthening of infertility services, education, auditing, regulation, community awareness and the need to integrate them with Mother and Child, HIV prevention and Family planning programs, which already exist in the health infrastructure.

According to WHO data more than 180 million couples in developing countries (which one in every four couples) suffer from primary or secondary infertility. in sub-Saharan Africa, untreated genital infections such as gonorrhea and chlamydia may be the cause of up to 85% of infertility among women seeking infertility care , compared to 33% worldwide which emphasizing the importance of prevention programs in Africa .
Lower levels of development are thought to be associated with higher levels of non-genetic and preventable causes of infertility such as poor nutrition, untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unsafe abortion, unsafe delivery, consequence of infections caused by the practice of female genital mutilation and Child marriage exposure to smoking and exposure to leaded petrol and other environmental pollutants.

Hence Prevention Awareness is very important. The consequences of infertility are much more dramatic in developing countries and can create more wide ranging social and cultural problems compared to Western societies, particularly for women. A central difficulty associated with infertility is that it can transform from an acute, private distress into a harsh, public stigma with complex and devastating consequences.

In some cultures, childless women still suffer discrimination, stigma and ostracism. An inability to have a child or to become pregnant can result in being greatly isolated, disinherited or assaulted. This always results in divorce or physical and psychological violence.

Although male factors contribute to about half of all cases of infertility, women are also overwhelmingly perceived as being the party responsible for a couple's infertility, and subsequently the social suffering associated with infertility tends to be greater for them than their husbands. Disproportionately having an effect on women, the burden of infertility is often assumed to fault the woman, as pregnancy and childbirth are manifested in the woman.

Discrimination against the infertile woman may include that a girl will never pass into womanhood (Regardless of age) if she never becomes pregnant, are no longer marriageable and become viewed as a burden on families, communities or societies.

Violence:
Intimate partner violence (IPV), gender-based violence (GBV) and domestic violence have been shown to have significant associations with individuals and couples suffering from infertility. .

Mental health:
High rates of clinically significant symptoms of depression and anxiety, suicidal tendencies, and a strong conceptualization of grief affects infertile individuals.

Therefore raising awareness about Male infertility is very critical to encourage men to acknowledge and openly discuss their infertility issues and strive for a team approach to family building with their partners.

A culture shift is needed to progress toward Shared Fertility Responsibility

through the "More than a Mother" initiative, together with African First Ladies campaigns, Ministries of Health, Gender and Education, Policy Makers, Academia, Fertility experts, community and media - we will challenge the perception of infertile women, their roles and worth in society, both within and beyond the medical profession in order to achieve a systemic shift in the current culture of gender discrimination in the context of fertility care in African societies.

We truly believe in what been stated by UN universal declaration of human rights, that access to adequate comprehensive reproductive health services, including infertility care, is a basic human right regardless of the economic circumstances in which individuals are born into. Therefore, the "Merck more than a Mother" initiative will contribute to identifying and implementing strategies to improve access to effective, safe and regulated fertility care in Africa and to defining interventions to develop policies to regulate ART and decrease social suffering from infertility and childlessness

Awareness and Advocacy Building
It has been proven throughout the years that, prevention programs and advocacy platforms are more cost-effective and benefit a greater number of people.

These types of awareness programs and advocacy building platforms can be more effective in eliminating the social consequences of infertility and will improve the health status of women in other ways

Hence, awareness about fertility prevention and management is number one priority in resource-poor settings and not only improving access to fertility care which will definitely depend to a large extend on the availability of the appropriate skills and experience and the ability to optimize ART technologies in terms of availability, affordability and effectiveness and above all safety.

"Merck more than a Mother" Advisory Board has defined five year clear strategy and structured objectives:

"Merck more than a Mother" Strategy and Objectives:

  1. Creating a culture shift to de-stigmatize infertility and to respect and appreciate infertile women in Africa.
  2. Raising awareness about infertility prevention management and male infertility by integrating it into healthcare infrastructure that already exist, such as HIV, maternal health and mother and child programs.
  3. Education and training for African embryologists since the lack of trained and skilled staff is a big challenge.
  4. Supporting policy makers to define ART policies to improve access to regulated fertility care.
  5. Building advocacy and open dialogue and work closely with governments, policy makers, parliaments, healthcare providers, fertility experts and media to define interventions to reduce the social suffering and improve access to regulated, effective and safe fertility care in Africa.
  6. Empowering infertile women socially and economically throng access to awareness, health and change of mindset and empower women who cannot be treated anymore through starting a small business for them to build their independent and happier lives through "Empowering Berna" project.