Family planning as panacea for abortion, population management

Family planning

Representative image: Family Planning

Representative image: Family Planning

MSION’s training for journalists underscores the urgent need for family planning to check Nigeria’s frightening imminent population explosion, abortion


Few months ago, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari raised the alarm over the country’s burgeoning population, describing it as “frightening” and “a big challenge.” According to him, “By average estimates, our population is close to 200 million today. By 2050, UN estimates show that Nigeria will be third globally, behind only India and China with a projected population of 411 million. This is a frightening prospect, but only if we sit idly by and expect handouts from so-called development partners. The solution to our problems lies within us.”

According to the 2019 report by the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA), an average Nigeria woman now give birth to at least five children, with many of these families not capable of caring adequately for the children. This frightening picture confirms the sad reality of the popular maxim in Yoruba language which says that abundant of children translates to abundant of poverty.

It is pertinent to say that true to Buhari’s statement, we can no longer continue to rely on foreign handouts to deal with the issue of population explosion and its attendant poverty, which is truly frightening. But, that is if we continue to lament or sit idly by and expect others to come and help us. We must take action, and the time is now, because, the solution to the problem of population explosion lies within us: family planning.

Wikipedia defines family planning services as educational, comprehensive medical or social activities which enable individuals, including minors, to determine freely the number and spacing of their children and to select the means by which this may be achieved.

Family planning may involve consideration of the number of children a woman wishes to have, including the choice to have no children, as well as the age at which she wishes to have them.

These matters are influenced by external factors such as marital situation, career considerations, financial position, and any disabilities that may affect their ability to have children and raise them. If sexually active, family planning may involve the use of contraception and other techniques to control the timing of reproduction.

To put it in plain language, family planning is all about having children by choice, not by chance.

Contraception offers a great way to prevent pregnancy when the couple/woman/girl is not ready.

What factors could influence or inhibit the decision use family planning?

Institutional inability of the Nigeria health system to provide women with quality counselling and access to contraceptive services. Socio-cultural inhibitions and stigma, especially in rural communities,
discouraging women to demand for reproductive health care services.

What are the benefits of family planning and what choices are available?

There are several options available, ranging from implants, injectables, condoms, etc, depending on what is good for the individual seeking family planning services.

During a training workshop organised recently for journalists from across the country, by Marie Stopes International Organization Nigeria (MSION), participants were exposed to the importance and the various methods of family planning available and were also equipped with skills needed for creating the much needed awareness on the need to key into the use of family planning.

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According to Mrs. Ogechi Onuoha, Head, (Marketing and Strategic Communication) MSION, “family planning is a human right, it is a key factor in reducing poverty, it is central to gender equality and women’s empowerment.”

In most developing countries, including Nigeria, some 214 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods, for reasons ranging from lack of access to information for themselves, their families and their communities.

Statistics show that 451 women and girls out of every 100,000, die from maternal causes in Nigeria. This is largely due to high fertility rate, unintended pregnancies and low use of contraceptives, an indication that Nigeria’s reproductive health situation has a lot to improve on.

“To achieve this, a lot must be done to address the barriers to uptake of modern contraceptive methods, because, an increased uptake of modern family planning services will contribute to averting about 30 per cent of maternal mortality rate, allowing more women to remain in school, get educated and contribute to national development.

“Contraception offers a great way to prevent pregnancy when the couple/woman/girl is not ready,” Onuoha said.

Unfortunately, though, barriers such culture, religion, incorrect perception about health risks associated with modern family planning methods, opposition by partners, families or communities, low awareness and poor funding by governments at all levels, logistical problems, difficulty travelling to health facilities, supplies running out at health clinics, have limited the effect of family planning.

On the other hand, limited use of family planning has increased deaths from unsafe abortion. Also, about 56 per cent of unintended pregnancies were resolved by abortion, with about 212,000 women treated for complications of unsafe abortion. An additional 285, 000 experienced serious health consequences, but did not receive the treatment they needed. Almost half of deaths are young women.

According to Mr. Emmanuel Ajah, Director, (Programme Operations) MSION, “abortions are common and most are unsafe because they are done clandestinely, by unskilled providers. Unsafe abortions is the third leading cause of maternal deaths in Nigeria yet has not generated enough policy attention.

“Factors promoting abortion in Nigeria include unavailability and or poor utilisation of pregnancy prevention and child spacing options. There was an increase of 16 to 18.9 per cent in unmet need for family planning in 2018, whereas, improved access to reliable modern contraceptives is a reliable means to reduce the incidence of unplanned pregnancies and abortions,” he said.

To help mitigate the impending population explosion in the country, Marie Stopes International Organization Nigeria (MSION), has been in the forefront of awareness campaign for the use of family planning services. It has training manual for doctors, nurses/midwives; family planning blueprint and reviews; training manuals on family planning for professionals; sponsorship of service delivery thematic.

MSION has also supplied family planning equipment, including autoclaves for ensuring infection prevention. The organization has engaged in capacity building of over 6000 government providers in 34 states across the country, with training and support of over 400 private sector providers to provide quality family services. Over 200 government personnel’s capacity built, equipped and supported as master trainers in 26 states.

With what effect? In 2018, no fewer that 2.06 million clients benefited from MSION’s outreach, with an estimated 710,000 number of unsafe abortions averted and 8,500 estimated number of maternal deaths averted due to provision of MSION services.

“Our vision is a world in which every birth is wanted, and our mission is that people have children by choice, not by chance,” Ajah said.

It is hoped that governments at all level will help stem the increasing of maternal death, unintended pregnancies, deaths from abortion, the impending population explosion, by coming up with policies that will encourage the use of family planning, create more awareness, and increase funding for family planning.

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