In vitro fertilization has helped countless couples around the world, though the procedure is not so accessible in many developing nations. But one doctor is helping to change that in Nigeria. For the most populous country in Africa, Nigeria has a large fertility problem, and that has made IVF treatment big business, as Christian Purefoy reports from the Bridge Clinic in Lagos, Nigeria.
Dr Ajayi in IVF lab (Lagos, Nigeria – August, 2011)
Doctor Richard Ajayi is using science to … give life to the hopes of would-be parents in Nigeria.
“The needle goes straight into the egg and that’s the sperm coming down – and he injects it.”
Ajayi returned from the UK to help set up Nigeria’s first IVF treatment clinic in 1999 and, since then, business has grown dramatically.
Dr. Richard Ajayi, Director ‘Bridge Clinic’
“I was surprised by the large number of Nigerians that were constantly coming to the UK for treatment and after a few years of watching them, my entrepreneurial nerve started to twitch and I thought to myself there’s a major opportunity in Nigeria.”
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa has up to double the infertility rate of most developed countries in the west. There are now roughly 15 other IVF establishments in Nigeria and Dr Ajayi himself runs four IVF treatment clinics across the country each of his clinics treats up to 700 patients a year with, what he says – is over a 30% success rate for women under 36 years-old– like many western ivf clinics.
But overcoming these biological realities ultimately helps couples overcome the enormous social pressure as well
Quote – Dr. Richard Ajayi, Director ‘Bridge Clinic’ (Lagos, Nigeria – August, 2011)
RA. “It’s expectation – when you get married, the next thing is you’re supposed to have children, so the in-laws are all waiting…”
CNN. “But that pressure is different from the UK for example…?”
RA. “Oh totally… where you have a marriage that’s not blessed with children there’s a lot of stigmatization, in fact, some people say infertility is a justifiable reason for divorce and a lot of marriages breakup where there’s infertility.”
None of the families having treatment at this centre have agreed to talk to us because of privacy issues and stigma from society about not being able to have children in Nigeria. But all of these photos on the wall are children successfully born because of treatment at this centre. And if you follow me through here – so far, the Bridge Clinic claims to have had 1253 live births since the year 2000.”
Treatment can cost up to $5000 – but maintaining a professional standard in a country with no IVF trained staff or even reliable electricity supply – is not cheap.
But healthcare, he says, is not just a business
Quote – Dr. Richard Ajayi, Director ‘Bridge Clinic’
“It’s not just about making money, it’s about actually doing something worthwhile and having a clear vision to solve a problem that the country needs solving and at the same time building a institution that outlives me.”
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