Due to what they described as unmet needs of contraceptives in Nigeria, health experts have said Nigeria annually records about 2.5 million cases of unintended pregnancy.
The duo of Christopher Aimakhu, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at the University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan, Oyo State, and Abubakar Panti, a professor in the department of obstetrics and gynaecology, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital (UDUTH), Sokoto, gave some startling statistics about family planning in Nigeria on Wednesday.
They spoke during a two-day virtual media training on family planning. The event was organised by the Rotary Action Group for Reproductive, Maternal and Child Health Nigeria (RMCH) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health, and the German Ministry of Economic Co-operation and Development.
Mr Aimakhu said Nigeria takes a large share of about 190 million women around the world, who are not using contraceptives despite the desire to space the number of births.
He said this is due to the low availability of contraceptives, especially in developing countries like Nigeria.
“Government and donor agencies must carry out urgent interventions to increase contraceptives’ uptake in the country,” he said.
He explained that if all unmet needs in Nigeria are satisfied, unintended pregnancies will drop by 77 per cent, from 2.5 million to 555,000 per year.
“As a result, the annual number of unplanned births would be decreased from 885,000 to 200,000 and the number of abortions would drop from 1.3 million to 287,000,” he said.
On his part, Mr Panti said unmet contraceptives need is a contributory factor to high maternal deaths in the country.
He said nearly 50 per cent of unmarried women in Nigeria do not have access to modern contraceptives, adding that the situation puts women in conditions of pregnancies not planned for, thereby increasing the country’s population and their chances of dying from unsafe abortion.
“In underdeveloped countries, women continue to die because they lack access to contraception. In Nigeria, from the National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) 2018, the unmet need for contraception among married women is about 19 per cent, and the unmet needs among unmarried women are as high as 48 per cent,” he said.
He explained that each pregnancy multiplies a woman’s chances of dying from complications of childbirth.
“Maternal mortality rates are particularly high for young and poor women because they lack access to contraceptive services.
“It is estimated that one in three deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth can be avoided if women have access to contraceptive services,” he said.
Advocacy for more contraceptives
Meanwhile, other relevant experts have joined the duo to advocate concerted efforts and increased investment in family planning programmes towards achieving Nigeria’s Modern Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (MCPR) of 27 per cent by 2024.
The country had failed to meet a global pledge it made along other countries in 2012 to achieve a MCPR of 27 per cent among all women by 2020.
At the dawn of the deadline, FP2020 target indicators show that the country has only 13.9 per cent MCPR for all women.
Mr Aimakhu said there has been a continued under-funding of family planning (FP) and consistent delay in release of allocated funds.
He explained that the national family planning budget decreased from 1.4 billion in 2019 to 1.06 billion in 2021.
“In these past years, there have been decreased allocations and releases to FP, continued under-funding of FP and consistent delay in release of FP funds,” he said.
Mr Panti calls for increased investment in the procurement of contraceptives, especially at the state level.
“Currently, there is a pressing need to limit family size, at the personal and national level. The need for birth control at a personal level is paramount now because there is an increased cost of living, scarcity of accommodation, a desire for better education of children, among others.
“At the national level, there is rapid population growth, and this is a critical issue in most developing countries because social amenities are overstretched,” he said.
In his remarks, the national coordinator of RMCH, Emmanuel Lufadeju, said restrictive access to contraceptives and modern family planning methods had contributed to the high population in the country.
He said; “Family planning must be prioritised because the country is at the risk of a population explosion which will have an adverse effect on our socio-economic development.
“It will also overstretch our already inadequate social amenities.”
He said the country must begin to emphasise responsible parenting to be able to escape the calamity of an unplanned population explosion.
Speaking at the training, Kayode Afolabi, director, reproductive health, Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) said the federal government is committed to embarking on deliberate efforts to ensure sustainable financing for the national family planning programme.
He said the country has made very bold efforts to achieve rapid economic development in the past four decades.
He, however, said rapid population growth has affected the quality of life and made the achievement of socio-economic development goals difficult.
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