Maternal deaths, morbidity: Political will, sustained funding of family planning prgms will rescue – NURHI

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By; BAYO AKAMO, Ibadan.

The Senior Technical Advisor, Advocacy for Nigeria Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI) Mrs Charity Ibeawuchi said only political commitment backed by adequate and sustained funding of family planning programmes by the government can reduce maternal deaths and morbidity in Nigeria.

Mrs Ibeawuchi who stated this in Ibadan while speaking at activities marking this year’s World Contraception Day (WCD)
declared that with adequate and sustained funding of family planning there will be decrease in maternal deaths and morbidity thereby increasing maternal survival, increased productivity and poverty reduction”.

According to the NURHI Senior Technical Advisor,
the budget lines and funding dedicated to maternal health, including family planning information and services at the federal,state and local governments levels in the country are grossly inadequate to achieve the goals of scaling up modern family planning services uptake and enhancing positive behaviours among women and families with efforts of Nigerian government such as the adoption of National Family Planning Blueprint (Costed Implementation Plan) in October 2014.

“Family planning plays a major role in improving maternal, newborn and child health. Family planning helps to avoid the proven challenges that women face in pregnancy/ child birth when they are too young and too old in age and/or when pregnancies are too close and too many,” she said.

Mrs Ibeawuchi stressed that the health of women, particularly those of reproductive age (15 – 49 years) in Nigeria stands out with the silent epidemic of poor maternal mortality and morbidity,adding that “23percent of our teenage girls (age 15-19) are already mothers or pregnant with their first child. Half of our teenage girl population are already married by age 18, while 61% are married by age 20 (National Demographic and Health Survey Report 2013).  Women in Nigeria have an average of 6 children”.

The NURHI Senior Technical Advisor added that “successful family planning programmes improve quality of life whilst significantly contributing to demographic dividends and national development”.

She stated that going by the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey, it was glaring that only few Nigerian women (about 15%) are using any method of family planning for spacing or limiting pregnancies while 10% use modern family planning methods.

“The low uptake of Family Planning/Child birth spacing methods is one of the reasons why Nigeria still reports high maternal mortality of 576 deaths per 100,000 live births (2013 NDHS Report) in Nigeria. Studies have found that Family planning alone reduces maternal deaths by more than 33%.

She emphasized that the “enormity of the current high maternal mortality and morbidity in Nigeria is staggering” and that the social and economic costs due to the complications and deaths to the family and the nation are enormous and should be resolved as a national priority.

An expert and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Professor  Oladosu Ojengbede while speaking on low uptake of Family Planning methods in Nigeria said the wide knowledge of Family Planning methods has not translated to its uptake, saying,“religious connotation seems to draw us back and cultural issues such as the men not supporting family planning, community misconceptions about family planning, religious undertone to family planning and also the failure to build enough confidence in the people to access quality services needed for family planning”.

Professor Ojengbede then advocated working with the traditional-religious structures in which the people have confidence, trust and will believe and obey to help dispel the myths, misconceptions, traditional and religious biases that people have against the use of contraceptives.

“If we harness their potential, the traditional rulers have a role to play, and we should not think that these traditional and cultural structures will not support family planning. We’ve seen eminent, traditional rulers who are talking about family planning. We need to bring them in far more than we have done” he said.

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