By Society For Media Health Advocacy, Nigeria
Over the years, research has demonstrated the invaluable role family planning plays in national development as well as enhancing broad socio-economic growth.
The use of family planning contraception should be a priority for all countries aspiring to achieve national development. Yet, contraceptive methods remain poorly used in in some African countries, including Nigeria.
As a critical component for nation building, investing in family planning is one of the smart ventures for national development as population dynamics have a fundamental influence on the pillars of sustainable growth.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic, development in many under resourced countries like Nigeria further witnessed a downward slide with series of lockdown, resulting to low uptake of the use of family planning commodities.
To this end, various reproductive health experts has said, family planning enables a nation to achieving balance and check for economic development and overall population growth as well as increases the capability of developing countries to provide all citizens with the required services including priority health services and adequate education.
For instance, as seen in most countries of the world, the use of modern contraception has yielded an accelerated economic growth by helping women prevent unplanned pregnancies, leading to rapid fertility decline in countries with high fertility rate.
By this, family planning enables women lengthen intervals between successive pregnancies resulting to improvement in child health and survival. The risk of prematurity and low birth weight doubles when conception occurs within six months of the previous birth.
Family planning can reduce deaths among children younger than five years by 13 percent if births are spaced two years apart. Such deaths would also decline by an estimated 25 percent if there were a three-year gap between births.
According to proven research, with fewer children, couples are able to save and make more investments per child resulting in better education and health outcomes as well as quality of life. Furthermore, women have more time to get education and contribute productively to the economy.
In addition, the rapid fall in birth rates results in a reduction in child dependency ratio and an increase in the labour surplus. The emergent labour surplus can propel national economic growth and development if the working age population are skilled, healthy and gainfully employed through the demographic dividends.
However, these effects works well, when accompanied by good economic policies and governance which are critical for attracting savings and direct foreign investments into the country.
A recent brief by African Institute For Development Policy (AFIDEP) showed that ensuring universal access to contraception despite COVID-19, would have invaluable benefits to improved health outcomes and sustainable development in Nigeria and its border countries.
Obviously, to have good human capital and national development, Nigeria must begin to focus on appropriate education, awareness and regulation with regards to effective child spacing.
Indeed, family planning is a win-win strategy which has far reaching benefits for national growth and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,(SDGs). These include addressing poverty, hunger, and food insecurity, enhancing gender inequality, improving education outcomes (especially among girls), improving child survival, among others even in the face of COVID-19 pandemic.