‘Beliefs, Men, Hindrances to Family Planning’

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OlaoluwakitanBabatunde

The Lagos State Government, at the weekend, identified beliefs and men as parts of the cogs in the wheels in ensuring compliance with family planning especially in the rural areas. According to Dr. Titilayo Goncalves, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, for there to be an appreciable improvement in the compliance level of family planning, men and faith based bodies must be carried along all through because they have a very strong and decisive influence in the action that would be ultimately taken by the women. 

Goncalves disclosed this while receiving The Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family at Scale (PACFaH@Scale) in her office at Alausa.

“  We have seen in the course of our work that men and religious bodies are essential if we must make any headway in compliance level of family planning. We have seen men drag their wives back to the hospital to discontinue the planning saying they never consented to such. And religious bodies have also called in to say we cannot determine what they do with their bodies especially when their faith frowns against such planning.

“So our plea is to help through the media, harp more on the need to adhere and imbibe all the advices given to them. Of course, we know we cannot do it all alone and that is why when we see organisations like yours, we feel encouraged and happy that whatever we are doing, how little it may be, it is being appreciated.” 

While acknowledging the giant strides the state has accomplished like being the highest percentage of women (80%) delivering by skilled birth attendants in the country, highest percentage (21%) of women using modern family planning, the lowest % of children under 5 with no vaccinations (1.7%) in the country, the lowest % of children (0.4%) presenting with severe anaemia in Nigeria,  Dr. Shina Ogunbiyi, a retired Major general who led the PACFaH@Scale delegation said his team hopes to see more improvement in terms of budgetary allocation.

According to him, “In 2018, Lagos State allocated N92.676 billion or 9% of the total budget to the health sector but released onlyN21.315 billion or 23% of the allocated sum. It is our prayer for full and timely releases of allocations to the health sector; the unmet need for family planning in Lagos State has increased by 4.7% over the last five-years.

“This means that services are not able to keep pace for the demands of women seeking family planning methods; with the teaming population of Lagos state expanded coverage under the Lagos State Health Insurance Scheme will remain a challenge with adequate and sustainable inflows of funds; optimal coverage for Routine Immunization in Lagos State will also remain a challenge without full implementation of the Primary Health Care Under One Roof Policy.”

Ogunbiyi also appealed to the Perm Sec to help look into the age of consent matter where as it affects unwanted pregnancy among the youths who he said already sexually active as early as 13, adding that executive fiat, rather than parliamentary, will ensure that it becomes a policy issue.

Goncalves replied that it would also be her wish if the age of consent can get executive fiat so that seeking approval of family planning from parents for their wards can stop.

“Sometimes last year, a medical doctor was summoned by the state’s House of Assembly where he was asked why he provided family planning without the approval of parents. When you have a growing population and sexually-active teenagers like we do here in the country, then, there must be access to family planning for them. So, it is our wish also to have that aspect stealth with on time. So we are all on the same page.”

The Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family at Scale, PACFaH@Scale, (PAS) is a social accountability project which aims to strengthen the capacity of Nigerian Civil Society Organizations, (CSOs) at national and state levels to hold decision-makers (in the executive and legislature) to account on, Health policies/laws;financial commitments; to bring down regulatory barriers related to child and family health.

 PAS is anchored by the development Research and Project Center, (dRPC), and implemented by a coalition of eight indigenous health NGOs/professional associations and supported by two government think tanks working to develop champions within the executive and legislature.