Nigeria: Religion hindering family planning

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Isaac Adewole, health minister. Twitter photo.
Isaac Adewole, health minister. Twitter photo.

 By Esenvosa Izah

A Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Oladosu Ojengbede, says religious connotation and cultural issues are hindering effective implementation of Family Planning (FP) in Nigeria.

He spoke at an event commemorating the World Contraception Day organised by an NGO, Development Communications Network (DEVCOM) on Monday in Lagos.

NAN reports that the World Contraception Day (WCD) takes place on every Sept. 26.

The annual global campaign centres around a vision where every pregnancy is wanted.

The mission is to improve awareness of contraception and enable women to make informed decisions on their sexual and reproductive rights- in essence plan the timing and spacing of their births.

Ojengbede said, “Religious connotation seems to draw us back and cultural issues such as the men not supporting family planning, community misconceptions about family planning, and religious undertone to family planning.

“Also, the failure to build enough confidence in the people to access quality services needed for family planning.’’

The expert also acknowledged the low uptake of Family Planning methods in Nigeria, saying that the wide knowledge of the methods has not translated to its uptake.

According to him, it should be resolved as a national priority.

Ojengbede recommended that there should be working relationship with the traditional-religious structures in which the people have confidence, trust and will believe and obey.

“This will help to 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 have seen eminent traditional rulers who are talking about family planning. We need to bring them in far more than we have done,” the obstetrician and gynaecologist said.

In her remarks, Mrs Charity Ibeawuchi, the Senior Technical Advisor, Advocacy for Nigeria Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI), said the enormity of the current high maternal mortality and morbidity was staggering.

“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,’’ Ibeawuchi said.

She acknowledged the efforts of the Federal Government in the adoption of National Family Planning Blueprint (Costed Implementation Plan) in October, 2014.

According to her, it is aimed at scaling up modern family planning services uptake and enhancing positive behaviours among women and families.

She observed that the budget lines and funding dedicated to maternal health, including family planning information and services at the Federal, State and Local Governments levels were grossly inadequate to achieve this goal.

Ibeawuchi said, “The health of the women, particularly those of reproductive age (15 – 49 years) in Nigeria stands out with the silent epidemic of poor maternal mortality and morbidity.

“Twenty-three per cent 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 per cent are married by age 20 according to National Demographic and Health Survey Report (NDHS), 2013.’’

Quoting the survey, she said “only few Nigerian women (about 15 per cent) were using any method of family planning for spacing or limiting pregnancies, while 10 per cent 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.’’

Ibeawuchi said studies had found that family planning alone “reduces maternal deaths by more than 33 per cent’’.

In order to tackle the challenges of uptake of FP, she recommended “political commitment backed by adequate and sustained funding of family planning programmes by the government at all levels’’.

Ibeawuchi said that this would create the necessary enabling environment that would result in decreasing maternal deaths and morbidity thereby increasing maternal survival, increased productivity and poverty reduction.

“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.

“Successful family planning programmes improve quality of life whilst significantly contributing to demographic dividends and national development,” she said

 

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