As Nigeria joins the world to mark the World Population Day.
A day established by the United Nations in 1989 to raise awareness on global population issues and for every country, including Nigeria, to focus more attention on the need to harness their populations productively to achieve demographic dividends, economic growth and sustainable development
The theme to mark this year’s World Population Day is Family Planning, Child Spacing: Empowering People, Developing Nations. The emphasis is on Family Planning as a key strategy to economic growth and sustainable development.
This therefore means that when access to quality family planning services are provided as a right, it empowers couples, women and individuals to space the births of their children and to achieve their desired family size in a sustainable way.
Family planning and/or child spacing is therefore a voluntary informed personal decision but its profound implications on health, economic and social well being of the society are far reaching.
That is why simple individual rights and choices have become a developmental agenda that must be addressed and integrated on sustainable basis into national, state and local development agenda.
As the theme of the 2017 World Population Day suggests, family planning/child spacing is not only about saving lives of mothers and their children; it’s also about empowering the people, improving the quality of their lives and achieving sustainable development.
According to the UNFPA and the 2013 National Demography and Health Survey report, Nigeria has continued to report very high maternal deaths arising from complications of pregnancies and child birth. Currently, 576 women per 100,000 lives birth die every year from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. This figure translates to 111 women dying daily.
Evidence also shows that more than 16 percent of women who seek to use family planning services fail to gain access to such services that would have enabled them space or limit their pregnancies.
So a large proportion of Nigerian women as a result face high risk pregnancies and child births. These situations demand urgent attention.
Evidences from research studies show that successful family planning programmes contribute to 33 percent reduction of maternal mortality.
Consequently, meeting the unmet need for family planning can help Nigeria reduce maternal mortality, and also child mortality by 20 percent. In addition giving women the right to access the voluntary family planning services will go a long way in fulfilling unmet need for Family Planning and consequently save more lives.
Women who choose family planning are healthier and face lower risks of maternal death. Children born to women who space their pregnancies tend to be healthier and face less risk of death in the first five years of live.
Women with choices and greater reproductive health are better empowered to seek and keep better jobs and contribute more to their families’ and nation’s prosperity. Their families are better-off financially and their children receive better education, helping trigger a cycle of prosperity that carries well into future generations. This produces demographic dividends and enhances global prosperity.
Voluntary family planning as a human right is central towards poverty reduction; it’s indeed central to gender equality and cannot be easily wished away. Family Planning as a life saving intervention is not only crucial in normal situations, it is also critical during humanitarian crises which are often characterised by sexual violence, intimate-partner violence, child marriage and high risk behaviours such as survival, transactional and commercial sex. Universal access to modern family methods is therefore imperative for all women of reproductive age.
Yet, over six million women who want to avoid pregnancy are currently not using safe and effective family planning methods.
Meeting the demand for modern contraceptives for all six million women in Nigeria would cost, only, $11 per contraceptive user for a whole year of supplies and services.
If adequate funding is provided for the health sector, investment in family planning could consequently receive a boost. In this regard if married women who desire family planning would have their needs met, Nigeria’s modern contraceptive prevalence rate would rise from the current 10 percent to the stipulated national target of 36 percent by 2018.
Investing in family planning is investing in the health and rights of women and couples worldwide. Investing in family planning as a right is the right and very positive thing to do. Nigeria has a rapidly growing population with a large pool of young people.
When the size of the dependent population shrinks relative to the size of those of working age, it creates an economic advantage. From the combination of increased wage earners, decreased dependency and implementation of the right policies we can fuel major economic growth.
On 25 September 2015, Nigeria was among the 193 member states of the United Nations to unanimously adopt the 2030 Agenda for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that aim to transform the world.
These Goals are designed to eliminate poverty, discrimination, abuse and preventable deaths, address environmental destruction, and usher in an era of development for all people everywhere.
Family Planning is included in the SDGs as Target 3.7 to achieve universal access to sexual and reproductive health services.
Achieving the world’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 will depend significantly on how well the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and young people are fulfilled.
Catering to their unmet need for family planning is among the most cost-effective investments, Nigeria must make now and in the future overall.
This statement from Late Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director (1949-2017) Nigeria’s own illustrious son captures it all
“For women to reach their full potential and be more economically productive, they must be able to exercise their right to decide for themselves whether, when or how often to have children.
Upholding this right will lead to improvements in health and produce an array of benefits: greater investments in schooling, greater productivity, greater labour-force participation and eventually increased income, savings, investment and asset accumulation.”
To achieve these, all hands must be on deck and the time to do this is now.