I was intrigued by a story from Gambia which said that 261 women had just started a fertility treatment programme funded by the President at his own expense. I had been imagining some generous donation for IVF, but the article I read was somewhat vague as to the nature of the treatment – other than to suggest that many women on previous funded programmes had been “cured”.
So, I started to read a bit more about President Yahya Jammeh and discovered that he is also a faith healer who claimed to have invented a herbal cure for HIV, which has not been welcomed by medical professionals as it involved people stopping antiretroviral treatment. His record on human rights is also somewhat alarming – you can read more here.
Details of what exactly the President’s fertility programme involves are rather limited, although it has been running for a number of years and claiming a great deal of success. Women seeking the treatment have to go and stay in a “clinic” for a week and drink herbal medicine; they are encouraged to stick with it even if it can be “tedious”. So far, perhaps relatively innocuous until I learnt that the President apparently believes that family planning is to blame for much infertility and has said that his fertility treatment is often complicated as patients are sometimes linked to supernatural beings.
Family and having children is extremely important in Gambia, but research shows that more than half of those with fertility problems seek help from spiritual leaders or faith healers. Conventional investigations are often quite basic and medical treatments for infertility are scarce.
Having a fertility problem is always difficult, but you may draw some comfort from the fact that you aren’t having to cope with this in Gambia.