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Friday, 13 September, 2002, 07:45 GMT 08:45 UK
Nigeria boasts world's twin capital
Igbo-Ora street scene
Some residents say yams in Igbo-Ora lead to twins

Nigeria has the world's highest rate of twins.

Within Nigeria, the south-west leads the way and within the south-west, the town of Igbo-Ora comes out top of the twins league, population experts say.

Igbo-Ora: 158 twins per 1,000 births
Europe: five twins per 1,000 births
In a study, renowned Sierra Leonean gynaecologist Patrick Nylander found that in Igbo-Ora, three sets of twins were born in every 19 births.

Head chief Lamidi Adeyemi, who of course has a set of twins himself, says that in the past, families with twins converged on the town, increasing the chances that their children would in turn have twins, or even triplets.

And once the families with twins moved to Igbo-Ora, he says that twins began to be worshipped as deities.

Nature or nutrition?

While Mr Adeyemi explains the high twinning rate by lineage, some locals have other theories.

Welcome sign to 'the nation's home of twins'
The town is proud of its record

Kehinde Morawo has a twin brother but says his family boasts many more twins and he in turn wants to have twins when he has children.

"I believe it's the food we eat that's why we have twins."

In particular, he says it is caused by the fondness of ethnic Yorubas for yams, locally called isu.

Another local resident, Mr Oniyide, says: "It's a common thing and I regard it as a blessing from God."

Staple diet

The facilities at the babies ward at the local Olugbon Hospital may be threadbare but the delivery of twins is a routine procedure, according to medical director Rasak Tijani.

"I cannot say it's peculiar to us because of the food we eat but it's more genetical."

"Those in other local government areas in this area eat the same food as us. We have the same culture and practice but the rate of twinning is different," he says.

But consultant gynaecologist Donald Imosemi at Nigeria's biggest medical institution, Lagos university teaching hospital, says that food may indeed play a part.

Extensive studies on multiple births have been conducted, showing that yams contain the chemical gonadotrophins, which helps women produce multiple eggs, he says.

"There's enough reason to want to believe in this theory."

"Even among the Yorubas living outside the Western part of Nigeria, the twinning rate is found to be very high."

Double trouble

While the birth of twins is generally celebrated, it also means an extra mouth to feed in this region of subsistence farmers.

Poster of twins
Some experts say the high rate of twins is genetic

One local resident said that it was difficult to raise his twins because they need twice as much attention.

"You're now faced with providing two things for two people. So definitely you're going to spend so much for the two of them," he said.

But another agreed with Chief Adeyemi that twins should be worshipped.

"It's a sort of honour to be so-called Baba or Iya Ibeji [Father or mother of twins] because they are a special breed from God."

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28 Aug 02 | Africa
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