BY THE SOCIETY FOR MEDIA ADVOCACY ON HEALTH, NIGERIA
Since the launch of the 2020 World Population Data Sheet by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), experts have been calling for prioritisation of family planning programs to check population explosion, fertility rates and unplanned pregnancies, among other related issues in Nigeria.
Lack of prioritisation of family planning, high fertility rate and population growth is clearly like a time bomb, though there are other socio-economic challenges facing the country which requires urgent attention from government.
Recent statistics from the Society Of Gynaecology and Obstetrics Of Nigeria (SOGON), on maternal mortality ratio in Nigeria over the past three decades, showed, Nigeria recorded 1500 per 100,000 live births in 1988, 800 per 100,000 in 2003, 545 per 100,000 in 2008, 576 per 100,000 in 2013 and 512 per 100,000 in 2018.
The SOGON estimating that these deaths can be averted with family planning, reports, “There would have been 1.2 million (15 percent) additional maternal deaths during the period 1990 to 2005 if there had been no increase in family planning use in 1990.”
The society further estimates that if Nigeria can achieve the 27 percent modern Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (mCPR), it would help to avert 578,250 unsafe abortions and 1.5 million unintended pregnancies.
The country would also save about 90,000 women lives, decrease maternal mortality by 33 percent and infant mortality by 44 percent, decrease complications of pregnancy and delivery, and prevent or reduce the maternal age-related incidence of genetic disease.
In addition, the country would reap more benefits of family planning, including enhancement of economic planning, educational and intellectual development of women, financial gains for families as well as improved quality of life for the community, society, and country at large.
Unfortunately, low access and use of contraceptives has continued to escalate along with unplanned pregnancies, unsafe abortions, maternal and child mortality in the country.
Despite Nigeria’s bourgeoning population, its health and socio-economic consequences, the needs of many women of reproductive age for modern family planning are not met.
Regrettably, the PRB report shows that Nigeria’s fertility rate is worse than that of Ethiopia with a current population of 114.9 million and a fertility rate of 4.3, while Nigeria’s is 5.3 with a population of 206 million.
Also, Ethiopia is estimated to have 46 million people in 15 years’ time, while Nigeria would be adding 90 million persons. It means that Ethiopia would be adding three million yearly, as against Nigeria’s six million additions within the same period.
Lamentably, the report further reveals that only 17 percent of married women between the ages of 15 and 49 are using all methods of family planning in the country. The PRB report shows that only 12 percent of women in the same age bracket of reproduction are using modern methods of family planning, while only 34 percent of demands for modern contraception are met in the country.
Sadly too, the trend is slowing Nigeria’s implementation of Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, Adolescent Health and Nutrition (RMNCAH+N).
Dr. Salma Anas-Kolo, the Director, Department of Family Health, Federal Ministry of Health, raised the alarm recently in a report, noting that the increase in the proportion of facilities that provided family planning and Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) services during the start of the year 2020, dropped by 14 percent in the country.
The decrease was due to several factors including; patients’ reluctance to visit health facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges with a shortage of commodity supply experienced across many states due to the pandemic and delays in commodity replenishment at the state stores.
To reverse the situation, especially in view of the new wave of the pandemic, there is a need for the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) for all health facility workers and an improvement in the attitude of health workers to patients to boost friendly environment for improved uptake of family planning services.
Indeed, there is a need to put in place mitigations to avoid prolonged interruption of family planning services to prevent poor health indices, especially in RMNCAH+N programs.
Obviously, this will curtail the health and socioeconomic implications of the increasing incidence of unplanned pregnancies and its associated problems including, abortions, maternal deaths among other issues.
To curb the alarming surge in unplanned pregnancies, abortions, maternal deaths and its adverse consequences on Nigerian women, experts insist that the upscale of family planning services is the way to go. They further advocate for governments at every level to prioritise investment in family planning programs in the country.
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