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Study: One in five Kenyan couples suffer from infertility

Two in every 10 couples suffer from infertility, data has shown.

Kenya is said to have made great strides in birth control programmes, but not the treatment of infertility, shows the data from Kenya Fertility Society.

Led by Prof Koigi Kamau, the society’s chairman, and Dr Pauline Wanjiku, experts said an estimated 4.2 million Kenyans require interventions to conceive.


Speaking during an infertility awareness media training held by Merck Foundation at InterContinental Hotel in Nairobi, Dr Wanjiku, an embryologist, said there were only nine fertility centres in the country and only one is based in Mombasa with the rest in Nairobi and they don’t open daily.

“The cost of having to travel far to get treated is too high and the treatment is also not affordable for mwananchi,” she said.

Dr Wanjiku said Kenya also has an acute shortage of embryologists, with most of them practising in private hospitals. “When we invest more in infertility, we will be able to help more Kenyans who are suffering in silence either because they don’t have the money or the hospitals are far and costly,” she said.

She said most abortions are procured under unsafe conditions, hence interfering with reproductive organs. She said many women who have procured unsafe abortions do not bother to seek treatment, making it even harder for them to give birth.


“Surprisingly, those involved are mostly school girls. They interfere with their organs and when they are of childbearing age, they realise that they can’t conceive,” said Dr Wanjiku.

The embryologist said most people do not seek professional help, but rather they consult quacks who use dangerous and unhygienic procedures for abortion and report at the hospital when there are complications.

Infertility is the inability to conceive within 12 months. In men, the causes include untreated sexually transmitted diseases, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, drug abuse and exposure to environmental toxins. In women, unsafe abortion and old age can be some of the causes.

Prof Kamau said that for years, women have been carrying the burden of infertility despite there being no difference in the percentage in men and women affected.


“Men and women are affected equally by infertility, with 30 per cent due to male factors and 30 per cent to female factors. Forty per cent of the cases are often caused by unexplained factors,” he said.

Merck Foundation Chief Executive Officer Rasha Kelej said childless women suffer discrimination and stigmatisation.

Data from the World Health Organisation shows that more than 180 million couples in developing countries suffer from primary or secondary infertility. In Sub-Saharan Africa, infertility is caused by infections in more than 85 per cent of women compared to 33 per cent worldwide, which underscores the importance of prevention programmes on the continent.