By the end of 2020, Sub-Saharan Africa will be housing over 250 million adolescents aged from 10 to 19 years and this figure is expected to increase to 24 per cent by 2030.
In Nigeria, with the over 200 million people living in the country, adolescents, or that segment of the population aged from 10 to 19 years, comprise 22 per cent of the total populace.
No doubt, the youths serve as the strength of any nation and they decide the future of a country. However, if their potentials are not properly harnessed, they also have the tendency to sabotage government policies on economic growth and development.
Global family planning experts have agreed that one sure way to secure the future of the youths, so that they can be able to contribute meaningfully to the growth of a country is through controlling fertility rates and population. High fertility rate means increase in the number children that would be born in any society and ultimately more youths which the society cannot provide for their feeding, education, employment, etc.
It is indeed heartbroken that recent Population Reference Bureau has shown that high rate of fertility, a consequence of overpopulation is a major public health crisis.
Nigeria’s population is estimated at 206,139,589 people at mid-2020 according to United Nations (UN) data. By that Nigeria is ranking Number seven in world population. The astronomic growth of the population should be a source of worry to Nigeria and Nigerians since this has direct impact on its economic development. What it means is that Nigeria’s resources cannot sustain such a high population.
Nigeria’s population is currently growing at the rate of 3.2 per cent per year and as estimated by the US Census Bureau, the population will be about 402 million people in the next 30 years – 2050.
It is further predicted that Nigeria would become the third most populous nation in the world, next to India and China. The indices of overpopulation are already staring us in the face. Cultural factors such as child marriage, high level of fertility leading to increased birth rate, high level of illiteracy, and undying cultural belief in high number of children and preference of male children are fueling the overpopulation.
The disastrous effects of these are the inherent high unemployment rate, inadequate health facilities, housing deficits, high crime rate, social conflicts, high cost of living, to mention a few.
Countries such as China and India have adopted drastic measures to control their population, including sterilisation and limiting by law the number of children and other incentives. While these may not work in Nigeria’s situation, something must be done in the area of family planning.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), family planning is the ability of individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of their births.
Nonetheless, it is estimated that some 120 million women who do not wish to become pregnant are not currently using contraception. By providing all women and men of reproductive age with a choice of contraceptive methods and counselling about how to use those methods safely and effectively, family planning programmes can have a significant impact on the lives of their clients.
Therefore, the government of Nigeria needs to adopt urgent measures to curb the country’s growing population. In the past, successive governments have concentrated on measures such as general enlightenment about family planning and reproductive health education.
These are unarguably widely tested ways of addressing the problem. The truth is that these measures have been less than successful owing to factors some of which are cultural and religious in nature. In view of this reality, governments must consider one of two options: either to leave things as they are and watch the projected growth in the country’s population come to pass or adopt more drastic measures to bring about a reduction in the growth.
Many experts have advised Nigeria to
consider the option adopted by China which limited the number of children a family may have as one that is worth exploring. To them there is nothing wrong in government directly limiting, by legislation, the number of children couples may have to two or three.
In the words of Kosi Izundu, Programme Officer, Reproductive Health/Family Planning, Pathfinder International Nigeria, “Nigeria needs to lower its fertility rate in order to slow down population explosion and grow economically through strong family planning programmes supported by all stakeholders.”
Conclusively, lowering fertility will enable today’s large young population enter adulthood with fewer dependents; with favourable education, health, labour policies, a larger proportion can be employed to support the country’s economic growth.
By The Society for Media Advocacy on Health, Nigeria