The Nigerian government has given its nod to Community Health Extension Workers, CHEW, to begin administering family planning contraception and implants for women, in an effort to increase family planning coverage across the country.
According to a statement by the Federal Ministry of Health, the ministry and partners have begun implementing the Task-sharing and Task-shifting Policy for essential healthcare services.
The policy authorises lower cadres of health workers, including CHEWs, to administer implants and intra-uterine contraceptive devices (IUCDS). Until the policy was unfurled, that responsibility was undertaken only by trained nurses and midwives.
According to the statement by the ministry on Monday, the step was being taken because CHEWs outnumber nurses working in primary healthcare centres in the rural areas, where there is a great need to provide family planning service to women.
Two states, Kaduna and Ondo, have been selected as pilot states to kick start the programme.
The Ministry, supported by Marie Stopes International Nigeria and other partners, trained CHEWs in the two states to administer IUCDs contraceptives in women who require the services in rural areas.
Speaking in Abuja during the dissemination of reports from studies conducted in the two states on the trial programme, the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, said one of the major barriers for accessing family planning in Nigeria is shortage and inequitable distribution of the appropriates cadres of health workforce to deliver healthcare services where they are most needed.
“There is shortage of virtually all the cadres of healthcare workers, resulting in poor utilization of many of our health facilities for essential services,” the minister said.
He added that the National Task-sharing and Task-shifting policy was aimed at increasing access to services such as family planning in Nigeria.
Mr. Adewole said the ministry had approved the policy in October 2014 as a key step to addressed the problem of health workforce shortage with anticipated adaptation and implementation at all levels of national health system.
“Let me reiterate that the National Task-Shifting and Task Sharing policy was not designed to take away task from any professional group but rather to make the best use of the cadres of staff currently employed and deployed to health facilities across the country,” Mr. Adewole stressed
In his remarks at the event, the Country Director, Marie Stopes Nigeria, Effiong Effiong, said the group had supported the ministry and state ministries of health in capacity building of CHEWs to implement the policy in the two states.
He said a study evaluated whether CHEWs could insert implants and contraceptives services as safely as nurses and midwives, and showed that with adequate training, they can do so.