Today, 11th July 2017, 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, it is more important to pay attention on the need to harness the populations productively to achieve demographic dividends, economic growth and sustainable development.
Nigeria, ranked tenth in the world, is among the most populous and fastest growing countries in Africa. In 2015, the population was estimated at 183 million people of which, 49.5 percent are women and 50.5 percent are men.
UNFPA has it that around the world, some 225 million women, including Nigerian women, who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods, for various reasons ranging from lack of access to information or services to lack of support from their partners or communities.
Most of these women, with fertility rate of about 6 with many of them desiring more children, having an unmet demand for contraceptives, live in both urban slums and rural areas. And, investments in making family planning available also yield economic and other gains that can propel development forward.
In 2006, Nigeria sex ratio was 103 men per 100 women, this dropped to 102men per 100 women in 2015. The drop, is largely explained, by the fact that sex ratios generally vary because of different patterns of mortality and migration for males and females within a population. From Figure 1 and 2, the trend emerging clearly shows that the population of the country has been growing steadily since 2006 and will continue to grow for many years to come.
The theme for 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 accesses 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.
Though, more people use family planning than ever before, more than half of the couples in the developing countries use family planning today compared with 10% in the 1960s. This dramatic increase in family planning use has caused fertility to decline much more rapidly in the developing countries and if this is achieved it can lead to the attainment of optimal population which is the best type of population in both developed countries and developing countries.
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. 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 child mortality by 20 percent.
Nigeria, hitherto, has more than 10% of all global under five deaths and carries a disproportionate burden of childhood mortality. 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 use 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. Effective family planning program will facilitate the achievement of the SDGs.
The goal of universal education will be achieved because there will be fewer children for school enrolment, unintended pregnancy is a major obstacle to school attendance, since many youths drop out of school once pregnancies occur.
A lack of family planning is detrimental to achieving the goal of gender equality because unplanned pregnancies interrupt work and career plans and when women are unhealthy as a result of frequent birth (e.g. VVF, RVF etc) they are limited to fight for their right of equality and equity.
In addition to saving cost through effective family planning programs, Family Planning can contribute to reduction in child mortality by improving maternal health, promoting breast feeding and reducing the number of high-risk pregnancies that result in high levels of maternal and child illness and death.
Spacing planned births and limiting unintended births increases child survival. Effective FP programs
promotes environmental sustainability by curtailing the population and preserving the environment.
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.
Source: Development Communications Network (DEVCOM), Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative 2 (NURHI 2)