By The Society For Media Advocacy On Health, Nigeria.
Two decades ago, Nigeria adopted an aggressive family planning communication campaign to boost the country’s modern contraceptive use and reduce its extremely high maternal mortality rate.
Specifically, the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) conducted an evaluation on barriers to utilisation of family planning among Nigerian couples in 2012.
The study identified the need for a high-impact intervention through the use of a ggressive family planning communication campaign methods to strengthen the uptake of family planning across the country.
This is aimed at using aggressive social behaviour methods to address the identified gap in family planning communication and change attitudes.
The objective was for government and health-related non-governmental organisations to embark on series of awareness campaigns targeted at taking the message of the importance of family planning across Nigerian homes in towns and villages.
Indeed, having the right information on the types of contraceptives for child spacing available for use is capable of boosting the country’s CPR and avert unintended pregnancies as well as unsafe abortion.
Contraception and child spacing information and services are always life-saving and important, especially during emergencies. it is, therefore, crucial to ensure that people are able to access rights-based services and information to initiate and continue the use of child spacing commodities as the COVID-19 pandemic rages. Sexual activity does not cease during pandemics.
By preventing unintended pregnancies, contraception helps to protect girls and women from the negative health consequences of such pregnancies, which can save their lives.
Contraception reduces the need for abortion, meaning that women and girls are less at risk of unsafe abortion, which again can be lifesaving.
Child spacing can help alleviate additional pressure on already-stretched health systems which are working hard to address COVID-19.
Couples who want to avoid pregnancy during the pandemic should use the contraceptive method of choice. Access to information on child spacing services from a healthcare provider can be done by phone or online.
In addition, such a couple may opt for a back-up method that is available without a prescription (such as condoms, spermicides, pills, or emergency contraceptive pills) from a nearby pharmacy or drug shop.
Family planning managers should increase the use of telehealth for counselling and sharing of messages related to safe and effective use of contraception and for selection and initiation of contraceptives.
Indeed, family planning managers should also ensure adequate inventory to avoid potential stock-outs at all levels of the health system.
Also, they should prepare advisories for users on how to access contraceptive information, services, and supplies; monitor contraceptive consumption in your area to identify any potential pitfall and shortage.
Similarly, they should increase availability and access to contraceptives that can be used by the client without service provider support such as pills.
There is a need to plan and develop innovative strategies to ensure that as many eligible persons as possible can access information and contraception during this pandemic period.
Furthermore, it is important to expand the availability of contraceptive services (including both information and methods) through places other than healthcare facilities, such as pharmacies, drug shops, online platforms, and other outlets.
There should be an increase in the use of mobile phones and digital technologies to help people make decisions about which contraceptive methods to use, and how they can be accessed.
Despite the terrible impact of COVID-19 on Nigeria’s health systems, the need to meet demands for child spacing information by women of reproductive age should not be compromised for the country to achieve its CPR target of 36 percent.
In 2012, the Federal Government committed to achieving a target of 36 percent Contraceptive Prevalence Rate by 2018.
Despite the 2017 revision of this target downwards to 27 percent by 2023, Nigeria’s latest National Demographic and Health Survey(NDHS) estimates show a CPR of 17 percent among married women and 14 percent among all women which is still a far cry from the target.
The CPR which is ‘the percentage of women of reproductive age who are currently using, or whose sexual partner is currently using, at least one contraceptive method, regardless of the method used, is often reported for women aged 15 to 49 who are married or in a union.
To achieve effective population control, the global community has set a target that by 2024; more women and girls around the globe would be able to plan their families and their future with the help of family planning programmes.
Apparently, responding to this global commitment, Nigeria also set a target to increase its Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) from 17 percent to 27 percent by 2024.