A conference to discuss reducing Nigeria’s grim maternal mortality rate through family planning is underway.
Health experts, especially in the area of reproductive health and rights, would be speaking at the one-day event holding at Nicon Luxury in Abuja on Thursday.
The event is organised by the Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria (SOGON) in collaboration with the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health At Scale (PACFaH@SCALE).
Themed: Universal Health Coverage Towards Reducing Maternal Mortality – The Role of Child Spacing and Family Planning, the conference seeks to generate national consciousness on Nigeria’s impending population explosion.
The organisers seek to draw government’s attention to the urgent need of investing in family planning as a watershed for managing the country’s population and reducing the avoidable child and maternal death rate.
Nigeria is one of the worst places for childbearing, a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, EIU found. According to a survey conducted by CISLAC, one in 13 women dies during pregnancy or childbirth in the country.
These deaths can largely be prevented through adequate use of modern contraception, experts say.
“Nigeria’s population is rapidly growing against its economic growth and the government is not doing anything to address the situation”, said Emmanuel Otolorin who is expected to deliver a presentation on the implication of Family Planning to health and development.
“Especially in the north, people are allowed to have children by chance and not by choice. These are some of the issues that will be addressed today”, he explained.
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11:05 am – Rabi Abdallah Adeniyi, the event moderator takes the stage.
She kickstarts the event by calling on conference-goers to rise for the national anthem.
11:10 am – After the recitation of the national anthem and pledge, Mrs Adeniyi introduces dignitaries at the event.
SOGON president Ireti Akinola; Adebimkpe Adebiyi; representing the health ministry and Pastor Peter Anemili from the Cristian Association of Nigeria (CAN) are some of the dignitaries recognized.
A representative of the Sultan of Sokoto is also at the conference.
11:28 a.m. – The SOGON president, Oluwarotimi Akinola, started his welcome address by reeling out Nigeria’s grim maternal mortality statistics.
He said the problem is that Modern Contraceptive Rate in the country has not improved despite previous commitments by the government.
He said it is almost impossible for Nigeria to achieve the Family Planning 2020 target.
“We are building forth children that we did not plan for and that is why we are the world’s poverty capital”, the medical doctor said.
He said the event speakers are carefully selected to engage participants on discussions around “unbridled reproduction” and ways to manage the situation. ‘
He ends his welcome remark to a round of applause.
11:40 a.m – Goodwill Messages.
Stanley Ukpai, a representative of Development Research and Project Centre (DRPC) said the organization is supporting family planning intervention in Nigeria because of its importance.
He thanked participants for gracing the event, urging them to drive discussions towards finding ways to manage Nigeria’s population.
Representatives from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, Pathfinder International also delivered goodwill messages.
11:45 a.m. – Emmanuel Otolorin takes the stage to make a presentation on the role of family planning in reducing maternal mortality.
Mr Otolorin, a professor, said he would also be looking at the consequences of Nigeria’s population bulge during his presentation.
He said it is depressing that the country is yet to make a significant effort in managing the country’s population or reducing the burden of maternal mortality.
“For every five women that die during childbirth, one is a Nigerian”, he said.
The professor is using a projection to illustrate the trend of Child and Maternal mortality in Nigeria.
He explained that over the past decade, there is a decline in the progress made at the beginning of the year 2000.
On population growth, Mr Otolorin said the problem is that in 2019 we are over 200 million and by 2050 we will become the third most populous country in the world if the current trend persists.
He uses strategies adopted to improve modern contraceptive usage by countries such as China, Thailand, and India as examples of how Nigeria can improve.
“If we don’t embrace contraception, Nigeria cannot make progress in all indices of improving citizen’s standard of living”, he noted.
He said embracing contraception will not just help manage population growth but reduce the risk of maternal deaths during childbirth.
“Without pregnancy, there will be no need for child delivery that often results in child deaths. Sse of modern contraception also helps in avoiding the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases”.
Of the 45 million women of reproductive age (15–49) in Nigeria, 15.7 million want to avoid pregnancy, a factsheet by Guttchmer Institute show. The figure represents women who are sexually active but do not want a child for at least two years.
Without modern contraception, they stand a huge risk of unwanted and unplanned pregnancies which often leads to abortion, a major cause of maternal and child death toll.
The academician said with improved use of modern contraception, abortions will be reduced and avoided.
He said girl-child education and awareness will help improve contraception usage as many women do not use contraceptives because of illiteracy.
The don said Nigerians should stop having babies by chance but “use family planning to dictate when and how they want to have babies.
“Nigeria should not depend on donors but make an adequate financial and political commitment towards improving the country’s contraception rate”.
“Every mother and child should not die during pregnancy”, he said, ending his presentation to a round of applause.
12:20 P.M – SOGON-PAS Director, Habib Saduki, takes stage to give a presentation on FP funding commitments for the attainment of FP2020 targets.
He said will be a miracle for Nigeria to reach its commitment to achieving the family planning target of 2020.
Nigeria in 2017 made a global pledge to achieve a modern contraceptive rate of 27 per cent among all women by 2020, by providing women access to family planning services and commodities.
The country committed to increasing its annual allocation for contraceptives from $3 million (committed from 2011 to 2014) to $4 million. The commitments were made at the 2017 FP Summit in London.
Little progress made – largely funded by donors – was neither enough to make the country reach its 2020 target or check population growth.
Despite efforts, Mr Sadauki said Nigeria is most likely not going to meet 17 per cent talk more of the 27 per cent of FP 2020 Modern Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (MCPR) commitment.
At the dawn of 2019 which is barely five months to reaching FP2020 target, indicators show that the country currently has only 13.9 per cent MCPR for all women.
This means that one-in-four married women aged 15-49 still have an unmet need for modern contraception.
The presenter said the shortfalls were because the government largely does not prioritize family planning by providing enough resources for it.
“A lot of states do not even release up to 10 per cent of their family planning annual budget.”
Mr Sadauki decried the fact that only N300 million was allocated for FP in 2019. He said nothing was allotted in the budget line for counterpart funding this year.
He called on the government to provide a supplementary budget for FP interventions.
He said without the counterpart funding, international funders will not make their own contributions.
FP budget in Nigeria is traditionally composed of two different budget line items: counterpart funding to match grants from donors; and domestic funding to improve family planning services.
While N1.2 billion was provided for counterpart funding to match donor grants in 2018, nothing was provided for this line item in the 2019 allocation.
There is also about 40 per cent decrease in the budget line item dedicated for domestic funding for FP services.
This is against the advice by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – one of the major funders of FP – to the Nigerian government on the urgent need to improve domestic funding for FP.
In conclusion, Mr Sadauki stressed the need for more domestic funding for family planning from both federal and state governments.
He said the private sector should also be engaged in the quest for improvement of modern contraception.
The official, however, alluded that it is “impossible for Nigeria to achieve FP 2020 target”.
12:45 p.m. – Panel Discussion on FP funding.
The session is moderated by Rabi Abdallah, the SOGON president.
Both representatives of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and that of the Sultan of Sokoto were the first to take questions from the moderator.
They are standing in for the religious groups and the role they are expected to play in promoting family planning.
Pastor Peter Elemile from CAN said the bible is in support of measures that enable good family health. He advised Nigerians on the need to have children we can train and cater for.
Representing the Sultan of Sokoto, Luka Panya said traditional rulers have an important role to play in Primary Health Care delivery. He said the Sultan had constituted a committee to create awareness on Modern Contraception.
He said the committee has engaged community-based data collation on FP in Northern states including the FCT.
The president of Nigeria’s Society for Women, Gloria Shoda, shared her experience of having her first child in her early teens. She said family planning helped her to avoid having a dozen children.
She said many women want to have FP but cannot because they don’t get support from their husbands. Mrs Shoda said her organization has programmes in schools and churches to create awareness on contraceptive use.
Representing Tanko Sununu, the Chairman House Committee on health, Babtunde Adejare said the major challenge of improving Nigeria’s modern contraceptive usage is culture and religion.
He called on religious and traditional leaders to speak up and address the rejection of FP in their various communities.
According to him, FP has nothing to do with tradition and religion.
He said the House of Representatives will look at the challenge and progress of family planning in Nigeria in previous years.
Tajudeen Arowole, the representative of the Senate Chairman Committee on Health, Yahaya Oloriegbe said the National Assembly is looking at improving funding for family planning.
SOGON president Mr Akinola wraps up the panel discussion by urging every stakeholder to work together for the improvement of FP intervention.
1:45 p.m. – Questions, Answers and Recommendations.
A participant said it is difficult to get information on funds released and utilised. He suggested that the ministry of health create a channel to make open budget releases and its implementation plan for FP.
A participant representing the Federation of Muslim Women Association, (FOMWAN), said Islamic religion is not against Family Planning but the term should often be replaced with “Child Spacing”.
“In Islam, there is no law that says women should not space their children. The religion of Islam is not against that. We support child spacing”, she noted.
2:05 p.m. – Adebimpe Adebiyi delivers a keynote address for the health minister, Osagie Enahire.
The official said she would make some personal contributions before giving the ministers’ speech.
She said the health ministry is committed to improving the prevalence rate of modern Contraception in Nigeria.
Delivering the Ministers’ Speech:
“Universal Health Coverage is anchored on the fact that health is a human right, particularly the health of women and the girls’ child.
“Considering the theme of the event, there is need for a robust understanding of the FP intervention so as to improve FP services as a oneway ticket to fight overpopulation.”
The minister said the government is repositioning efforts of FP interventions. “On this, appropriate steps are being taken for the uptake of an affordable collaboration for Modern Contraception Prevalence”.
“We are planning to establish an FP 2020 secretariat to handle supports and counterpart funding for procurement of FP services.
“The federal government has been mobilizing resources for FP over the years and 2019 is not going to be an exception.”
2:35 p.m. – Vote of Thanks.
Wrapping up the event with a vote of thanks, SOGON Secretary-General acknowledged the Assistant Secretary-General, Sultan of Sokoto and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN); who were represented.
He thanked all attendees.
The event ends with the recitation of the first stanza of the national anthem.