In 2012, the World Health Organisation noted that infertility rates in developing countries had soared to one in four couples who were being affected by infertility and there has been no sign of a decline in these figures since.
Defined as the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse, the stigma attached to infertility is leaving many hopeful couples on the African continent suffering in silence.
Infertility is often automatically assumed to be linked to problems with the female reproductive system but globally half of infertility cases are in fact linked to male causes. In Africa, infertile people are sometimes viewed as a burden on the socio-economic well-being of a community. This stigma can extend to the wider family, including siblings, parents and in-laws, who are deeply disappointed for the loss of the continuity of their family. This amplifies the guilt and shame felt by the infertile individual. The cultural misconceptions and the emotional burden, especially for women, is often unbearable.
Many couples are now looking to fertility clinics to assist with solutions such as IVF. Founder of South Africa’s Wijnland Fertility Clinic, Dr Johannes van Waart, says they are seeing a high demand from couples who come from across the African continent, “There are not a lot of clinics in Africa and there is much need for treatment.”
Dr van Waart says they are experiencing a shortage of donor eggs and sperm to meet the demand. “Becoming a donor, one can make a significant contribution in the creation of a modern family. We are looking for donors across all racial profiles. Ideally, donors should be under 30 years old, healthy-living and with a matric or equivalent qualifications. We assist donors throughout the experience by carefully guiding them through and explaining the whole procedure and answering all questions they may have.”