A Nigerian woman gives birth to an average of 5.5 children in her lifetime. This is a statement by FamilyPlanning2020, a commitment marker of family planning in Nigeria since 2012. Their focus is on dispelling myths and misconceptions about family planning, expanding the provision of family planning services and supplies to the last mile, and enabling an environment in which women and girls make informed choices on their health.
The issue of child spacing has become very relevant today in the discussions on world population control. July 11th every year marks World Population Day. In recent past, discussing issues of family planning was done in secrecy. Openly engaging its service was almost a taboo as many view it as a strange Western culture aimed at reducing African population.
However, the emerging insurgency, biting economic hardship, available healthcare facilities and qualified personnel have reversed the trend, forcing more women in Nigeria to embrace the hitherto forbidden family planning services.
Hindrances to Family Planning Success in Nigeria
In a particular news report, the United Nations predicts that Nigeria could well be on its way to becoming the third most populous country in the world by 2050. Today, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh in the world. The federal government spoke of its commitment during the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning to curtail this unsustainable population growth trend. This is to be achieved through increased promotion of child spacing services to Nigerians.
However, despite efforts of advocacy by the government on the need and benefits of birth control, acceptance of modern contraceptive methods has remained very poor especially among Nigerians living in rural areas. More still needs to be done to ensure that women and girls, including the men, are re-oriented on the cultural and religious misconceptions they have about modern contraceptive methods. This happens to be the major hindrance to birth control success in Nigeria, especially in the Northern parts of the country.
Other contributory reasons include :
- Lack of knowledge of the various options available : Most couples in rural areas who desire to pursue child spacing depend on traditional methods of contraception which can be very dangerous and ineffective. Education and awareness creation should increase towards such couples on the various modern contraception options. This way we can see more couples coming to the hospitals to seek family planning services.
- Limited perception about family planning by some healthcare providers : A lot of women and men still fear that the modern contraceptive methods like pills, injectibles, IUCD’s and vasectomy will disrupt their hormonal balance for menstruation or affect their sexual performance as men. Sometimes, healthcare providers have failed to give proper enlightenment on the safety of the contraceptive methods to allay their fears. This is largely due to their limited perception themselves about the birth control methods, hence, there is need for them to improve their knowledge.
- Easy access and cost of services : Tremendous progress have been made in this regard. Reports show that some methods are free for a few, and the prices for family planning service have greatly reduced. The more easily accessible and affordable these services are, the more couples will patronize them.
- Lack of support from the men : Study shows that only about 15% of women aged 25 – 49 in Nigeria use modern contraception for child spacing. It is not surprising to see that there are many more women who wish to engage in family planning more than the men since they are the ones who have to endure the child bearing risks and child rearing difficulties. There are men who forbid their wives from using contraceptives and even threaten to divorce them if they do. More sensitization and education should be focused on men to allow and support their wives in child spacing.
- Inadequate involvement of cultural and religious bodies : It has always been about cultural and religious misconception. although these cultural and religious bodies have at least begun collaborating with different family planning agencies in sensitizing and enlightening the citizens, there is still need to see more of their involvement if we want to record greater success in child spacing and population control in Nigeria.
Family Planning is Key
Family planning is responsible parenthood. Adequate child spacing helps families to have the number of children they can cater for at a particular time and at the particular age. Maternal and child mortality is linked to improper family planning. We can also see a reduced incidence in illegal abortions among married and unmarried individuals that endangers the lives of girls and women through effective application of modern contraceptive methods.
The population concerns of Nigeria needs more radical attention. Current socio-economic parameters in the country doesn’t look sufficient to accommodate our exponentially growing numbers. Family planning is one strategic area the government needs to leverage to curtail unwanted consequences of impending over population in the near future.
Government at the federal, state and local government levels should give support in areas of supplies of modern contraceptive commodity and consumables. There is need to also engage quality service providers to attend to Nigerians so that population needs grow alongside development.