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ONE of the greatest ironies of the African society is the stigmatisation and bullying of childless couples. The woman who is unable to conceive is seen as a failure, irrespective of the medical diagnosis she has gone through. The man also gets the societal bullying, even if not as much as the woman who is often seen as the sole ‘producer’ of children. Very often, a man whose wife does not have a child is mocked as being a woman and the woman is mocked as a man in the union.

The pressure on couples to have children starts on the wedding day when more than half the prayers is for the couple to have children in the next ‘nine’ months. Some of the gift items often presented at such weddings are often nursery items. So, the pressure starts and has led to couples being under immense pressure to prove their fertility. Some even go as far as stealing or buying children just so they can be seen as ‘fertile’.

The irony however is that when the children come, the society does not care in most cases to assist the couple financially in raising them. It is part of the hypocrisy of the African society. The pressure is mounted on a couple to have children against all odds, the children eventually come and no help comes their way in the long run. Granted that there might be some cultural value to offspring, but it is sad the pressure couples often have to endure, and even those who have a certain gender only are pressured to continue having kids they can ill afford to train.

This situation is currently the lot of Mr. and Mrs. Musa who were delivered of a set of quintuplets in Jos, Plateau State, at the Fertile Ground Hospital in the state capital. The mother and the remaining three out of the five children had spent more than three months in the hospital. The babies were premature and had to be delivered through caesarean section and needed to be put in incubators. Unfortunately, they lost two but three are alive.

The couple had been childless for 23 years and obviously went in for assisted reproduction, the in vitro fertilization (IVF). They recounted their ordeal before the pregnancy and of course it is the regular experience of most couples with pregnancy challenges. Now the kids are here and no one is footing the bill, and the couple were forced to go to the media for publicity that might attract help from any source. The pastor-husband obviously was not expecting more than a child, just so they can be left alone. Now the chances of multiple births through IVF procedures are always there.

Again, the fate of the poor couples shows again the need for health insurance as a policy that must be diligently implemented. Those children might also have died through some human errors or lack of the equipment to keep them alive.

We believe that no couple should be put through this kind of stress because they want to have children. Our society must begin to put less pressure on couples to have children by all means. Adoption can get more advocacy as childless couples can legally adopt, instead of resorting to stealing babies or going through IVF processes that are sure routes to multiple babies, especially when the couple cannot financially handle such.

Plateau State government or other good Nigerians can help the couple raise the money so they can leave the hospital. In other climes, baby products’ manufacturers and other companies often give such couples assistance with year-long supplies as part of their corporate social responsibility. Houses, cars and grocery companies often offer help to such people in ways that are mutually rewarding, as their products serve as adverts to the general public. We believe such companies in Nigeria can help too.

The poor children are citizens and should not be made to suffer because of poor parentage. The health ministry can equally step in and make sure that fertility clinics enlighten their clients about the chances of multiple births so they can make better choices. Even if they are assisted out of hospital, how would their future be taken care of? The health ministry must begin to do something about population explosion, given the dwindling country’s economic fortunes under a global pandemic.

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