Encouraging Fertility Reporting in Nigeria

Managing Director, Nordica Fertility Centre, Abayomi Ajayi

With one in four Nigerian couples suffering from one form of infertility or the other, and about 80 per cent of those affected not knowing the right steps to take in addressing the health issue, the Nordica Media Merit Awards hopes to change the narrative by encouraging journalists to report informed and educative stories on fertility. Martins Ifijeh writes

Clinic Manager, Nordica Fertility Centre, Lagos, Tola Ajayi; Managing Director, Nordica Fertility Centre, Abayomi Ajayi; and Editor-in-Chief/ General Manager, Vanguard Newspaper, Gbenga Adefaye, during the NMMA presentation in Lagos recently

For all it may worth, Nigeria perhaps has the highest number of churches in the world because of the intense religious and spiritual colouration the citizens give to human existence. But within these several thousands of churches, if not already in millions, lies perculiar ones dedicated to certain aspects of life.

For some, their calling is to lead members of their congregation to heaven so they sit at the right hand side of God on judgment day. For others, they want to breed millionaires who will escape poverty and the hardship associated with the country’s economy.

And then there are some who major in invoking spirits of protection against witchcraft, wickedness and all forms of harm to their congregation. Here, there is ‘fire’ always ready to kill percieved spiritual treats.
But there is a new section of churches in town. These ones are fast booming, and they often operate everyday, even on a Monday morning when people should be about their normal businesses.

Their specialty is to invoke the god of fertility so he can distribute babies to infertile couples. Here, with a rubbing of the stomach of the female couple with a raw egg dipped into a bowl of ‘holy water’, they tell you why you are barren, who tied the womb and what you must do to free yourself from spiritual bondage.

Be sure among the spiritual exercises for the couples often involve seven days midnight prayers, three days dry fasting, (or in some other cases they fast on your behalf), and sometimes spiritual birth.

It is the fastest growing section of churches in the country. Reason? One in four Nigerian couples have one form of infertility or the other, amounting to at least 25 per cent of couples in the country, with over 80 per cent of those affected not knowing what to do to tackle it.

One of such places is a make-shift church in Kpako area of Baruwa-Inside in Iyana Ipaja, Lagos State where Prophet Jo and his wife welcome different couples everyday with same problem of infertility. They charge between N30,000 to N100,000 for prayers depending on the kind of prayers the couples may require.

For those who do not patronise churches, they perhaps end up in traditional homes where they take all manner of concoctions for a flourishing womb or for a rich sperm for the males. These couples do not know how else to tackle infertility affecting their homes, since cultural and religious beliefs often say it is caused by evil spirits and the likes.

But experts said infertility is just like any other health challenge that requires medical attention for diagnosis, treatment, management or even cure.

They said if couples are enlightened on what to do, they would not have issues with the health challenge for a long time as it cn be successfully treated.

According to available reports, fertility rate in Nigeria is estimated to be 5.4, which implies that the average woman can expect to have that many children during her life. Yet many Nigerians experience infertility.

Chelsea Polis of the Guttmacher Institute, and her colleagues estimate that 31 per cent of Nigerian couples fail to conceive a child after 12 months of unprotected sex—a rate at least as high as in the West. In a country where a woman’s worth is defined largely in terms of her ability to bear children, there is a growth market for fertility treatments of all kinds.

For the Managing Director, Nordica Fertility Centre, Abayomi Ajayi, he said while it remains the right of individuals to seek spiritual help for their issues, including ill health, it is important people understand that infertility is a medical condition that can be addressed medically.

But how many Nigerian couples are aware of this?
It is in changing this narrative that Nordica Fertility Centre put up an annual Nordica Media Merit Award (NMMA) as part of efforts to encourage Nigerian journalists from all segments of the media to report, enlighten and educate the public about fertility and all that needs to be known around tackling infertility in the country.

It is believed that many couples across the country will learn about about management of the condition, where to go and what to do at a point in time if broadcast and pages of the newspapers share fertility stories.

NMMA also believes that one of the ways to bringing awareness on how best to address infertility among couples, is for journalists to develop interest in chunning out quality stories on fertility and the stories around it.
It is in changing the narrative that, for the first time in 2017, that the NMMA platform was set up which called on Nigerian journalists to submit their published work in a bid for the award committee, led by the Editor-in-Chief and General Manager of Vanguard Newspapers, Gbenga Adefaye, to honour the best reports in the print, television and the online category.

Beneficiaries carted away N250, 000 each and plaques in a celebrated event which also marks end of Nordica’s annual Endometriosis March. 2018 entries also came with three journalists, including THISDAY health correspondent winning one of the three categories.

Recently, the third edition of the awards was held in Lagos with three journalists winning in the three categories (print, broadcast and online).

THISDAY journalist, Martins Ifijeh, for the second year running emerged the winner of the 2019 NMMA print category for excellence in fertility reporting.

Ifijeh, who won with his entry ‘Heavy Metals and the Pain of Infertility’, was announced as one of the three winners of the highly competitive annual awards at the presentation ceremony in Lagos recently.
Other winners are Olasumbo Modupe of Lagos Television and Anthonia Obokor of Business Day Newspapers. They won in the electronic and online categories respectively.

Ifijeh’s winning piece highlighted how heavy metals and industrial chemicals from oil exploration in Nigeria has increased the risk of infertility and deprived couples exposed to them from having babies.

Ajayi described the award as part of the organisation’s efforts to reward excellence in fertility reportage in Nigeria, adding that such quality stories will help raise more awareness on reproductive health issues in the country.

The winners of each of the categories were given plaques and N250, 000 cash prize each.
Members of the jury board included Adefaye, the Group Editor, The Nation Newspapers, Gbenga Omotoso, among others.