August 26, 2009
Sudan Getting Low Cost IVF
Truth is stranger than fiction.
POOR and war-torn, Sudan might be the last place you would expect to find an experiment in cutting-edge fertility treatments.
Well, I'd put a few countries further down my list of so poor that they'd be unlikely to get IVF clinics.About 45 countries are poorer than Sudan. Zimbabwe sits at the bottom. So a clinic in Khartoum isn't the least likely. Since a clinic is opening in Tanzania (which is 11 positions lower than Sudan in poverty but still with $1300 per capita GDP) my reaction is along the lines of "what, sub-$1000 per capita countries not good enough for IVF?". I'm sure you share my outrage.
But by the end of October, a clinic at the University of Khartoum plans to offer in vitro fertilisation to couples for less than $300, a fraction of its cost in the west.
A foundation in Switzerland couldn't find something more valuable to do with their money.
The clinic is one of three funded by the Low Cost IVF Foundation (LCIF) of Massagno, Switzerland, the brainchild of IVF pioneer Alan Trounson, who is now president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. The other clinics are in Arusha, Tanzania, and Cape Town, South Africa.
This in a country where over 40% of the population is under the age of 15 and the population is growing at the rate of over 2.1% per year. The population is approximately 8 times what it was 100 years ago and it is on course to more than double.
Suppose you wanted to help the Sudanese people. Any big problems in Sudan (cough, Darfour, cough) come to mind? How about the 4.9 million displaced people?
Sudanís internally displaced population has topped 4.9 million, giving the east African country the unenviable distinction as having the largest displaced population in the world, according to a new report out this week.
Over 10% of those under the age of 5 die in Sudan.
Randall, thanks for pointing out that there is an alternative IVF clinic in Cape Town. (to the one I'm currently using)
Cape Town is actually at the forefront of fertility treatment worldwide, so I'm glad that the public sector is benefiting as well.
I think it's quite disgusting how much is being charged by the private sector for a service which should be available more widely and which many people are desperate for. It should not only be reserved for the elite in developing countries.
The transfer of knowledge and skills, particularly healthcare and fertility treatment skills to developing countries especially in "pro bono" form, should be applauded, not judged IMO.
I'm also certain there is scientific data which flows back to the 1st World from these clinics in any case to make the funding worth their while in the long run.
Perhaps they want an unsuspecting population on which to try out new technics.
Capetonian, I understand your point. We all support the humanistic benefit that giving folks in Sudan a high tech fertility treatment has, but that benefit seems short term and not thought out.
There are opportunity costs to everything. (Money isn't free.) You and your loved ones will probably die of curable diseases for no reason other than that society didn't get around to funding SENS until it was too late for you.
When people I have responsibility for die needlessly, it doesn't make me sad.. it makes me mad.
The world is a bottomless well of short-term nice things we could do. In the big picture, the best way forward for the interests of humankind and for our own interests is to advocate increased research funding.
One consultant to Sudan advocacy groups, Chuck Thies, emails that the move is the product of restlessness among advocates at the administration's "seeming inaction" and concern at Special Envoy Scott Gration's statement that genocide in Sudan had stopped.
Something to chew on that has not yet entered the public debate: Though the rate of death from violence in Darfur has been greatly reduced in the past year, millions of people still live in unsafe refugee and IDP camps, slowly starving to death. No one suggested the Holocaust genocide ended until the death camps were liberated; the same should be true for Darfur.