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One in six people globally affected by infertility – WHO
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a new report on Monday that large numbers of people are affected by infertility in their lifetime.
The report said that around 17.5 per cent of the adult population, roughly one in six worldwide, experience infertility, showing the urgent need to increase access to affordable, high-quality fertility care for those in need.
“The new estimates show limited variation in the prevalence of infertility between regions.
“The rates are comparable for high-, middle- and low-income countries, indicating that this is a major health challenge globally.
“Lifetime prevalence was 17.8 per cent in high-income countries and 16.5 per cent in low- and middle-income countries.”
The Director-General of WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said that the report revealed an important truth infertility does not discriminate.
“The sheer proportion of people affected shows the need to widen access to fertility care and ensure this issue is no longer sidelined in health research and policy so that safe, effective, and affordable ways to attain parenthood are available for those who seek it,” Ghebreyesus said.
According to him, infertility is a disease of the male or female reproductive system, defined by the failure to achieve a pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.
He said that it can cause significant distress, stigma and financial hardship, affecting people’s mental and psychosocial well-being.
The WHO boss said that despite the magnitude of the issue, solutions for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of infertility including assisted reproductive technology such as In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) remained underfunded and inaccessible to many due to high costs, social stigma and limited availability.
Mr Ghebreyesus said that at present, in most countries, fertility treatments are largely funded out of pocket often resulting in devastating financial costs.
He said that people in the poorest countries spend a greater proportion of their income on fertility care compared to people in wealthier countries.
Mr Ghebreyesus said that high costs frequently prevent people from accessing infertility treatments or alternatively, can catapult them into poverty as a consequence of seeking care.
Pascale Allotey, the director of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research, WHO, said that millions of people face catastrophic healthcare costs after seeking treatment for infertility, making this a major equity issue and all too often, a medical poverty trap for those affected.
Mr Allotey said that better policies and public financing can significantly improve access to treatment and protect poorer households from falling into poverty as a result.
According to her, while the new report shows convincing evidence of the high global prevalence of infertility, it highlights a persistent lack of data in many countries and some regions.
She said that the report called for greater availability of national data on infertility disaggregated by age and by cause to help with quantifying infertility and also knowing who needed fertility care and how risks can be reduced.
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