Family planning has been identified globally as one of the health interventions that could bring demographic dividend in any country. With the high cost of living in Nigeria followed by the looming population explosion, it is important for families to adequately plan for every child born.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Nigeria’s population is projected to hit 263 million in 2030 and 401 million in 2050 and by then, it will become the third most populous country in the world.
This is because the country’s population continues to grow at a high rate of 2.6 percent, while the global population growth is 1.05 percent annually.
In Nigeria, experts say the increased fertility rate is connected to the socio-cultural explanation where the practice of polygamy is high in most regions of the country.
Having a large family size is culturally symbolic as proof of social standing in the community. The 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) showed that household wealth status impacts fertility rate in the country as females in the wealthier households had fewer children.
The survey also revealed that an average Nigerian woman gives birth to 5.3 children, adding that, women in rural areas have an average of 5.9 children compared to 4.5 children among urban women.
The report further showed that one in five teenage girls age between 15 and 19 are already mothers or pregnant with their first child. Rural teenage girls are three times more likely to have begun childbearing than urban teenage girls at a figure which is put at 27 percent versus eight percent.
Many research has shown that Nigeria is a patriarchal society, therefore the only avenue to status and security is through motherhood. This is one of the reasons Nigerian women give birth to so many children.
To avert population explosion, one of the dangers of having many children, the Chairman, Board of Trustees, Public Health Sustainable Advocacy Initiative (PHSAI), Ayo Adebusoye believes that every Nigerian family should have children which they can cater, based on the high cost of living.
Indeed, it would be irresponsible for any couple to have children and abandon them. Every day, the cost of schooling, feeding, and accommodation keeps rising due to inflation. Nigeria cannot afford to have children it cannot plan for as a country, state, and family.
Child spacing portends many benefits for mothers and children. It allows mothers to have enough time to rest after a pregnancy. It enables couples to have children which they can take care of in view of today’s economic realities.
To reap these benefits, experts call for strategies to boost contraceptive use in all states in the country.
For instance, in Lagos state, the population is estimated to be around 28 million. Without the availability of family planning consumables, women who need contraceptives will not be able to access them.
To promote child spacing in Lagos, PHSAI targets to train and collaborate with 70 percent of religious leaders to increase awareness among their followers on family planning.
Since Nigerians claim to be religious people and revere their pastors and Imams a lot, it is strategic to partner with the religious leaders to create more awareness in their circle to let people know that they must plan your family.
If all unmet needs in Nigeria are met, unintended pregnancies will drop by 77 percent, from 2.5 million to 555,000 per year.
Similarly, the annual number of unplanned births would be decreased from 885,000 to 200,000 and the number of abortions would drop from 1.3 million to 287,000.
Nigeria still has a huge unmet need for family planning due to the low availability of contraceptives which is mostly seen in developing countries.
Unfortunately, many women of reproductive age in the country do not use contraception for healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy.
Against this background, Nigeria’s goal of raising its modern contraceptive prevalence rate (mCPR) to 27 percent for all women by 2020 was a mirage with the nation’s CPR remaining at 12 percent.
Consequently, the 27 percent mCPR by 2020 target set in 2012, but revised in 2017 is now moved to 2030.
In 2012, the government had made commitments to a sustainable financing for the national family planning programme, improving availability of services and commodities as well as building partnerships to improve access to contraceptives.
However, the implementation of government’s policies and guidelines to advance the utilisation of family planning methods, in order to reverse the rapid population growth is still suboptimal.
Again, Nigeria has committed to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls on countries by 2030, to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services.
These include family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.
For the country to live up to the global commitment to ensure that every Nigerian couple who wants to plan their families has access to the services by 2030, it requires the monitoring of major family planning indicators.