Experts Call for Support to Achieve Healthy Timing, Spacing of Childbirths

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Rebecca Ejifoma

To improve awareness of contraception and enable women make informed decisions on their sexual and reproductive rights, experts have made various submissions that women and men, irrespective of their ages, social status and locations, deserve the highest level of recognition, dignity, respect, assistance and support to achieve their health and survival.

According to the Senior Technical Advisor, Advocacy for Nigeria Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI), Mrs. Charity Ibeawuchi, health of women, particularly those of reproductive age (15 – 49 years) in Nigeria stands out with the silent epidemic of poor maternal mortality and morbidity.

“Twenty-three per cent of our teenage girls (age 15-19 years) are already mothers or pregnant with their first child. Half of our teenage girl population are already married by age 18, while 61 per cent are married by age 20,” she said, while quoting records from the National Demographic and Health Survey Report 2013, adding that, Nigerian families have an average of six children.

She said only about 15 per cent of Nigerian women were using any form of method planning for spacing or limiting pregnancies, while 10 per cent use modern family planning services needed for family planning.

Meanwhile, Ibeawuchi affirmed that the enormity of the current high maternal mortality and morbidity in Nigeria was staggering. “The social and economic costs due to the complications and deaths to the family and the nation are enormous and should be resolved as a national priority.”

Recognising the efforts of Nigerian government such as the adoption of National Family Planning Blueprint (Costed Implementation Plan) in October 2014 which is aimed at scaling up modern family planning services, uptake and enhancing positive behaviours among women and families, she observed that budget lines and funding dedicated to maternal health, including family planning information and services at the federal, state and local governments levels were grossly inadequate to achieve the goal.

Ibeawuchi recommends: “Political commitment backed by adequate and sustained funding of family planning programmes by the government at all levels will create the necessary enabling environment that will result in decreasing maternal deaths and morbidity, thereby increasing maternal survival, increased productivity and poverty reduction.”