With little resources to cater for the needs of over 198 million people living in Nigeria, stakeholders foresee more difficult time hard to deal with in the nearest future. ODIRI UCHENUNU-IBEH writes.
The population of a country could be cited as a strength, if it is huge enough to boost the economy. In that case, the people must be able to contribute meaningfully to the economy by producing goods and services, thereby reducing importation and also going into mechanized farming to have enough for exportation.
There must be a proper healthcare system that can adequately cater for the health needs of the population so as to avoid medical tourism and needless deaths. There must also be an increased social amenities to correspond with the increasing population.
Under such circumstances, a country’s population could be cited as a strength, but when, like in Nigeria’s case, population growth outpaces public infrastructure and development by far, then it is a huge red flag.
One major sector where such deficiencies is more pronounced is the health sector. For instance, new survey conducted by NOIPolls in partnership with Nigeria Health Watch has revealed that about 88 per cent medical doctors in Nigeria were currently seeking work opportunities abroad.
The implication of the continuous migration, according to the report is that it will further worsened the physician-patient ratio in Nigeria from 1:4,000 to 1:5,000, contrary to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation of 1:600.
This can lead to unnecessary fatalities, avoidable deaths, longer wait times, more frequent medical errors and a general deterioration in the health of Nigeria’s population.
The Chairman, National Population Commission, Mr. Eze Duruiheoma, has estimated the Nigerian population to be 198 million, making the country to be the most populous in Africa and the 7th in the world.
Duruiheoma said the recent World Population Prospects predicts that by 2050, Nigeria will become the third most populated country in the world, adding that over the last 50 years, Nigeria’s urban population has grown at an average annual growth rate of more than 6.5 per cent without commensurate increase in social amenities and infrastructure.
He said, “It grew substantially from 17.3 per cent in 1967 to 49.4 per cent in 2017. In addition, the 2014 World Urbanisation Prospects Report, predicts that by 2050, most of the population will be residing in cities.”
Duruiheoma, while citing the 2017 National Bureau of Statistics report, said like in other developing countries, Nigerian cities host widespread poverty, under-employment and unemployment at an average of 18.4 per cent.
Stakeholders who spoke with LEADERSHIP said with the huge population of Nigeria, coupled with the little resources available, dangers loom in the nearest future.
The way forward, according to stakeholders is for Nigerians to step up their games to assist the government and one way they can effectively do that is through voluntary Family Planning (FP).
The honourable minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, has said that universal access to FP is a human right and a key factor in reducing poverty and attaining the Sustainable Development Goals.
Adewole said with the current Nigerian population of over 190 million people, efforts have to be made to create awareness of moderate family size nationwide, especially in rural areas.
“With over 190 million people, and counting, vigorous awareness creation about the essence of moderate family size, especially in rural areas has once again become particularly necessary,” he added.
The director, family planning and nutrition, Lagos state ministry of health, Dr. Folashade Oludara, said while Nigeria is the third most populous country in Africa, Lagos state is the most populous state in the whole of West Africa.
Oludara said the state is so peculiar when compared with other state of the federation due to the fact that it is accommodating. She said, “This is the state with the smallest landmarks and has almost 70 per cent of its terrain as riverine and hard to reach and it is the most populous state in the whole West Africa, if not in the whole of Africa. People within Nigeria and outside the country troop in.
“Even if government tries to take care of six million people today, you will see that by the time the Budget is released, that six million has doubled to 12 million. So that is a major challenge, the huge population, the ever growing population that are necessarily not Lagosian.”
She said there are lots of pressure on the government due to the huge population, a population that is not under control, a population of fertility rate of over five per cent, which means that a woman will have an average of five children in her life time.
She however encouraged women to embrace FP, as it will not only help them to space their children, thereby giving quality care to them, but productivity will improve and the state will have a lot of empowered women.
The reproductive health coordinator, Lagos state ministry of health, Dr Saidat Okaga, said FP plays a role in the reduction of the number of Maternal and new born mortality up to 32 percent and that is why the Lagos state government has taken the issue of FP as a priority.
Okaga said statistics have shown that every N200 spent on FP in Lagos state, saves N974 in direct healthcare costs. She said unintended pregnancies carry associated healthcare costs and the government is determined to address the barriers to FP use, thereby saving an additional N3.5 billion in direct healthcare expenses by 2018.
She however pleaded with the people of Lagos to start using FP, as it will not only help to save more fund for the government, but also improve their health, and reduce poverty in the state.
State team leader, Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI), Dr Omasanjuwa Edun said voluntary FP brings transformational benefits to women, families, communities, and countries.
Edun said, “For instance, FP can reduce poverty. If i give birth to six children and my salary is N1000 and another family has just two children with the same N1000 as salary. No doubt, the later will have a more quality standard of living.
“The money that family of six children would have spent in taking care of the other children, would have been invested in a business that would fetch more money, leading to more food for the family and then breaking the chain of poverty.
“It takes an average of two years for a woman to adequately recover from child birth, that is for the woman to return to the preconception stage. Let us not forget that when a woman is pregnant, the child in the womb is like a parasite, meaning the child takes everything it will need to develop properly in the womb and leave the remnant for the mother and that is why some women, due to poor nutrition die while giving birth. This can be prevented with FP.”
On Education, Edun said, “If Nigerians are able to give birth to the number of children their salaries can cater for; no doubt, they would be able to provide quality education for them. In that case Nigeria will be able to produce graduates that can help boost the economy.
Edun said, FP mitigates population growth’s effects on access to water and sanitation; it contributes to building safe, resilient and sustainable cities and it helps mitigate the effects of deforestation.
On prosperity, Edun said FP contributes to economic growth. He said, “The truth is, the dependent rate in Nigeria, that is the rate of people who depend on others to take care of them have increased lately and the workforce remains the same or has diminished lately.
“The economy is not growing because the money people would have spent in investing into businesses to grow the economy have now been used to take care of others. The infrastructure we have on ground cannot cater for the population we have right now. We know we have too many competing needs and our population keeps going up.
“Even though government is trying to revamp the economy, it is not visible because of the large population. FP can help reduce the alarming population growth, which will lead to government saving more funds to tackle other issues.”
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