In the wake of COVID-19 in Nigeria, family planning experts have foreseen a surge in maternal and child mortality in Nigeria. To avert that, they are calling on the Nigerian government to prioritize family planning activities.
They made this call, at a one-week online training workshop for Health Reporters, organised by Rotary Action Group for Reproductive, Maternal, and Child Health (RMCH) in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Health and the Society Of Gynaecology and Obstetrics Of Nigeria (SOGON).
While there are other socio-economic challenges the Nigerian government have to deal with, family planning experts said prioritization of family planning and issues concerning population growth by government and its agencies would help to avert maternal and child mortality in the country.
The President, SOGON, Prof. Oluwarotimi Akinola, said Nigeria’s Population is about 201 million and it is the most populous country in Africa, with growth rate of 3.18 per cent. By 2050, Nigeria’s population will hit about 450 million, says Akinola, adding that “presently, 64 per cent of the population is below the age of 25 while 45 per cent is below the age of 15, so the greater population of Nigeria is dependent, not productive.”
On unemployment rate in Nigeria, Akinola said unemployment rate is put at 23 per cent, which makes desperate youths engage in crime or emigrate to developed countries. “Social crisis like kidnapping, insurgency, terrorism, armed robbery, and general discontent among youths are on the increase in Nigeria. These are associated with the high rate of unemployment and lack of opportunities for youths,” he added.
On maternal mortality ratio in Nigeria over the past three decades, SOGON president said, Nigeria recorded 1500 per 100,000 live births in 1988, 800 per 100,000 in 2003, 545 per 100,000 in 2008, 576 per 100,000 in 2013 and 512 per 100,000 in 2018.
These deaths can be averted with family planning, says Akinola adding that, “There would have been 1.2 million (15%) additional maternal deaths during the period 1990 to 2005 if there had been no increase in family planning use in 1990.”
If Nigeria can achieve the 27 per cent modern Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (mCPR), it would help to avert 578,250 unsafe abortions and 1.5 million unintended pregnancies, save about 90,000 women lives, decrease maternal mortality by 33 per cent and infant mortality by 44 per cent, decrease complications of pregnancy and delivery and prevent or reduce maternal age related incidence of genetic disease.
Other benefits of family planning as highlighted by Akinola are, it helps to enhance planning; it increases educational and intellectual development of women, it increases financial potential for families and improves quality of life for the community, society and country at large.
With these benefits in mind, Akinola however urged governments, civil societies, parliaments, health workers and journalists to commit to addressing the root causes of maternal death, improve the status of women through provision of universal basic education, provide universal health care and promote adolescent sexual and reproductive health rights.
In the same vein, the director, Department of Family Health, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Salma Anas-Kolo, said COVID-19 is an indirect cause of maternal, new born and child morbidity and mortality in Nigeria, which has negatively affected the implementation of Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, Adolescent Health and Nutrition (RMNCAH+N) in Nigeria.
Anas-Kolo, who was represented by the head, Reproductive Health, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Kayode Afolabi, pointed that, while there was an increase in the proportion of facilities that provided family planning and Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) services during the start of year 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a drop of 14 percent.
She attributed the decrease to several factors including; patients’ reluctance to visit health facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges with shortage of commodity supply experienced across multiple states due to the pandemic and delays in commodity replenishment at the state stores.
Proffering solution, Anas-Kolo said, all health facility workers should return to work with personal protective equipment, adding that the attitude of health workers to patients in public health facilities should be improved. “There is need to put in place mitigations to avoid prolong interruption of family planning services to prevent poor health indices especially in RMNCAH+N activities,” she added.
The National Coordinator, Rotary Maternal and Child Health Project, Nigeria, Prof. Emmanuel Lufadeju, also harped on the need for federal and state governments to strengthen awareness on population and development issues, especially as it relates to family planning.
He commended efforts made at eradicating polio completely in Nigeria, while charging the media to give more publicity and create enlightenment on family planning to eradicate maternal and child mortality, just as they did in the fight against polio in Nigeria.