Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has reiterated the federal government’s commitment to investing in Family Planning (FP) services, identifying it as a critical tool for the country to reap demographic dividend.
The demographic dividend is the economic growth that results from a decreased ratio of dependents to the working age population. By reducing the dependency ratio, people will live longer, be more productive, have an incentive to save for their retirement, and increase their investments.
Speaking at the fifth family planning conference held in Abuja on Tuesday, Mr Osinbajo said for Nigeria to transform from a nation of promise and potential to one of the most productive economies in the world, it needs to invest in family planning.
He described family planning as a smart, cost effective and lifesaving tool the country needs to invest in, for economic and social development. This implies that women have the choice to determine the number of children they want and when they want to have them. This will in turn, re-position Nigeria to reap demographic dividend.
The family planning conference is a biannual conference where the government, private and international partners working in the sector gather together to deliberate on successes achieved and ways to improving family planning services.
The theme of this year’s conference is Family Planning Investment, Innovation and Inclusiveness.
Mr Osinbajo, who was represented by the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, said the theme of the conference is very apt because the country needs to increase its family planning services across board.
Currently, Nigeria is on the verge of having a population explosion as the United Nations predicted that the country will have one of the largest population in the world by 2050.
This will spell doom for the county if the GDP growth rate also continues to remain below its population growth.
With these predictions, the county is expected to anticipate a gloomy economic condition and strain on its infrastructure in coming years. Nigeria was, only recently, rated as the country with the highest poverty growth in the world.
In order to forestall these predictions, the vice president said it has become evident that the government needs to invest in a nationwide family planning programme. This will eliminate the unmet need for modern contraception, put a check on the current high fertility rate and help achieve efficient population management.
Mr Osinbajo said Nigerians demographic dividend roadmap has identified investing in family planning as a smart, cost effective and lifesaving move for country like Nigeria, which has a very young and rapidly growing population.
“ … keep in mind that an estimated 63 per cent of the total population is below 25 years of age; with a significant segment of this population being sexually active and needing education and guidance to wisely navigate the issues of sexuality, choice and contraception,” he said.
While lamenting the low availability of family planning services in the country, Mr Osinbajo said the government is committed to funding it, with a view to increasing the accessibility of its services as it is already factored into the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (2017-2020) of the Buhari administration.
“Population management must move to the front-burner in policy making and in resource allocation and the success of our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (2017-2020) and subsequent development plans and strategies are very much contingent upon our ability to focus and prioritise even in the face of competing demands,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, the chairman, Senate committee on health, Lanre Tejuosho, said investing in family planning is a major contribution towards the future of the country.
Mr Tejuosho, in his remark, said the Senate is interested in the progress in the health sector which was why the sector was allocated the one per cent consolidation revenue funds this year.
He however, made an appeal to the executive and minister of finance to make sure that there is an appropriate release of the funds approved for the sector.
“We have played our parts and are praying that the executive play their part adequately by releasing the amount approved for the health sector. This has become very necessary because we have about 11 million children stunted in this country and this is not adequate.
“If we allow our families to grow and cannot cater for the ones on ground, I believe dooms day is very close. The green dot is the most important banner in the room and I am looking forward to the day we will see that green dot all over Nigeria,” he said.
The green dot indicates primary health care centre where family planning services are been rendered in the country. Currently only about 12,000 PHCs in Nigeria out of about 36,000 PHCs in the country, offer family planning services.
In a similar vein, the chairman of the event, Ejike Oji, said the aim of the conference is take stock of how far Nigeria has been keeping to its words to make sure Nigerian has access to right based family planning services.
Mr Oji said access to family planning services is a right and the only way to make sure women, girls and men exercise their right to make those critical decisions based on their choices, in an atmosphere free of coercion.
He said Nigeria is at a cross road where it must harness the burgeoning youthful population it has by providing the adequate health care, appropriate and relevant education and creating an enabling environment for job creation, or do nothing and face demographic doom.
Mr Oji said though the government is investing $4 million yearly to the family planning basket funds to procure its consumables, more needs to be done at the sub national levels.
He explained that the reason for the investment is evident because in 12 years, Nigeria added 58 million people to her population.
“This is three times the population of Rwanda. Our maternal mortality is still very high at 576/100,000 live births. As we continue to increase our population in this alarming rate we will be increasing the number of poor people in our country with resources not increasing accordingly, he added.