Improve young people’s access to family planning services, experts urge Nigerian govt

Nigeria needs to improve the access of its youth to family planning services so as to avert a population explosion by 2050.

This was the consensus on Wednesday at the on-going 2018 National Family Planning Conference holding in Abuja.

The conference, the fifth of its kind in the country, is usually a biannual programme where government officials working in the family planning (FP) sector and developmental partners get together to discuss progress in the advancement of FP in Nigeria.

The theme for this is “Family planning Investment, Innovation and Inclusiveness.”

At the pre-conference meeting, the youth had urged the government to engage them more in the advocacy of FP services.

Speaking on the communiqué from the pre-youth conference, the secretary, Youth Subcommittee, Lilian Anyanwu, said though the conference was attended by young people from across the country, more of them are needed in the campaign for it to achieve the desired result.

Ms Anyawu said as part of the pre-conference, the youth team rolled out a social media campaign designed to run for 90 days, delivering a specific message on the sexual and reproductive health and right of young people.

“We have some messages that are focused on educating young people on access to sexual and reproductive health information and services. Some messages were targeted at decision-makers, to increase social consciousness on the policy needs for an enabling environment for youth access,” she said.

Ms Anyanwu advised the government to establish youth-friendly information and services centres around the country, especially in places of learning, where the youth can learn more about the services and have easy access to the products.

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She also advised young people to seek information on FP and pregnancy prevention from workers who have expertise and knowledge of the services, instead of depending on peers who may misinform them.

Adolescents and youth aged 10 to 36 years constitute over 47 per cent of Nigeria’s population. This is regarded as the most fertile group in the country who needs access to modern contraception products.

Over 100 women die daily from pregnancy-related causes in Nigeria and one out of every three deaths in girls aged between 15 and 19 years is pregnancy-related.

Unfortunately, most of the people in this group cannot access FP services due to lack of knowledge, fear of stigmatisation by the society and health workers, as well as religious and cultural intolerance of the use of contraceptives

In his remarks, the President of the Association of Reproductive Health, Oladipo Ladipo, urged the government to improve its spending on FP in Nigeria, saying this is necessary for economic growth, demographic dividend and empowerment.

Mr Ladipo said without commitment, the progress will be stalled because donor funds are shrinking.

Though the government spends about $4 million yearly to support FP activities, he said the ideal is to allocate $1 per woman for FP in their budget.

“If we want to achieve our collective goals, we should have plans and a blueprint on how to operate. This is the time to ask ourselves how do we invest, innovate and execute the plans to achieve it,” he said.

The country representative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Nigeria, Paul Bassinga, in his goodwill remark said the theme of the conference was very appropriate at a time funding from international partners are beginning to dry up.

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Mr Bassinga who was represented by one of the project officers at the foundation, Rodio Diallio, said Nigeria needs to invest and take pride in its people for it to achieve full potential.

This, he said, can be achieved through investment in human capital, agricultural and primary health care services, which would provide quality healthcare to people especially those living in the rural areas where quality health services are mostly required.

Mr Bassinga said investing in PHCs and quality health care will transcend to quality vaccination, tackling of malnutrition and providing family planning services to people who need them at quality time.

“Investing in FP is one of the smartest investments Nigeria has to make. This investment will allow more girls to stay in school and increase economic strength, and fewer women would die during child bearing,” he said.

Mr Bassinga said FP is the right of women and girls.

“They need to have the rights to determine when they want to have children and how many children they intend to have. We need to work together to remove barriers in accessing FP and the stigma attached to using FP, especially among adolescents.”

He said Nigeria has lots of adolescents but most of them are difficult to reach and those within reach do not have access to the products.

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