With Nigeria’s population estimated to be the fourth highest in the world by 2030, government must as a matter of urgency ensure a more sustainable population growth, by increasing access to voluntary and quality family planning services.
This year’s World Contraception Day commemoration with the theme: It’s your life, it’s your responsibility” has further renewed the call for access to contraception services as well as youth awareness on use of modern contraceptives.
The World Contraception Day is an annual global event on contraception, targeted especially at young people on the need to access contraceptives and reproductive health information, services and supplies.
However, the country director, Pathfinder International Nigeria, Dr. Jega Farouk, regretted that despite the emphasis on the impact of contraception on population control, the 2019 budget showed a reduction, rather than an increase in the budget allocation for contraceptive commodities in the country.
According to him,ideally, nobody should aim to ‘control’ the population, but the impact of unchecked population growth, especially one that does not align with GDP growth, needs to be understood and addressed.
“We will be heading for a demographic disaster with the current growth rate in population, especially given that the majority of the populace is made up of young people who should be productive.
“Unfortunately, they are mostly untrained, uneducated, unskilled and unemployed. The result is the increased spate of insecurity we are currently faced with. This therefore calls for government’s intervention to address this unsustainable growth rate.
“Fortunately, we have an opportunity to turn this demographic scenario into an opportunity to achieve the so-called demographic dividend. This window of opportunity will not last forever, and will not happen automatically. We have to invest in the education, health (include access to family planning) and jobs for these army of young people, turn them into a productive workforce that will contribute to our GDP growth”, said Farouk.
Also speaking, the country director, Marie Stopes International (MSI), Dr. Effiom Nyong Effiom noted that modern contraceptive prevalent rate is still very low in the country, increasing marginally from 10 per cent in 2013 to 12 per cent in 2018.
According to him, a woman’s freedom to choose her own future family planning has benefits that extend far beyond her own home,adding that her organisation is passionate about contraception and safe abortion services as they are imperative for women to plan their child bearing in order to achieve her set goals in the life.
Meanwhile, lack of quality information to make informed decisions about reproductive health among young people has also been identified as a factor promoting unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion.
Stakeholders have therefore stressed the urgent need to improve awareness of the importance of abstinence as well as contraception to enable young people make informed choices on their sexual and reproductive health.
According to the programme director, Development Communications Network (Devcoms), Akin Jimoh, “abstinence is a priority recommended means for young people but in reality for a number of this group, the increase in the use of contraception will help curb teenage pregnancies and eliminate a scenario whereby a baby who is supposed to still be under the tutelage of her mother is expecting another baby in her womb”.
He asserted that lack of education about responsible sexuality poses a threat to the lives of the girl child in Nigeria. “Should Nigeria refuse to take action on unwanted and underage pregnancies, the country will continue to have high rate of unsafe abortion as reported in several studies.
“The 2018 Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020 (PMA2020) Abortion Survey Results states that about 4 to 6 per cent of women of reproductive age had a likely abortion in the 12 months prior to the study indicating that 1.8 to 2.7 million abortions occur annually in Nigeria.
“Family planning allows the woman to rest between pregnancies in order to regain her health and strength and enable her to have a healthy child and thereby reducing the incidence of maternal mortality in Nigeria,” he added.
Also, the Youth Program Officer, Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI2) Lagos, Bless-me Ajani, asserted that “one thing that still echoes very loudly are the numerous barriers and challenges young people face in accessing contraception information and services. As a country, this is a time to prioritize the issues around Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health (AYSRH).
“These issues which are always being discussed year in year out without adequate solutions to address them range from ignorance on the part of the young persons, policy barriers, non-supportive societal environment to judgmental service providers.”