By Chioma Obinna & Oluwaseyi Adesina

The National Population Commission, NPC, has  urged the three levels of government to boost investment in family planning as part of strategies to provide adequate sexual and reproductive health services in the country.

This is coming on the heels of a new report  by the Guttmacher Institute indicating that contraceptive services and Maternal and Newborn Health, MNH, services fall far short of needs in developing regions like Nigeria.

NPC Chairman, Mr. Eze Duruiheoma, who made the call in Abuja to mark the commencement of the commemoration of the 2017 World Population Day, WPD, said efforts at building social and physical infrastructure in other critical sectors of the nation would not yield  benefits unless women have unfettered access to these services.

Duruiheoma  spoke at the conference organised in collaboration with the UNFPA and other stakeholders with the theme: “Family Planning, Birth Spacing: Empowering People, Developing Nations” observed:  “Private sector facilities continue to be the chief providers of contraceptive methods in Nigeria; 60 per cent of users of modern contraceptive methods obtain them from the private sector.

“I wish to seize this opportunity to renew the appeal to the federal, state and local governments to invest more in the provision of sexual and reproductive health services to the vast majority of the people.

“All the massive investments in building social and physical infrastructure, healthcare, education and other critical sectors of our national life will not yield maximum benefits unless the women and girl child have an unfettered access to sexual and reproductive information and services.”

He said the contraceptive provided by UNFPA  in 2016  had the potential to prevent 11.7 million unintended pregnancies, close to 3.7 million unsafe abortions and prevent an estimated 29, 000 maternal deaths in the country.

He said universal access to voluntary family planning can reduce maternal deaths by a third and child deaths by as much as 20 per cent.

He said in spite of these benefits, family planning has continued to receive wrong interpretations in spite of the fact that the two major religions enjoin parents to cater for the well being of their children.

He said there was  still wide unmet needs nationally and globally, stating that over 225 million women living in developing countries would like to delay or stop childbearing but were not using contraception.

“Fulfilling their unmet demand will save lives by averting 60 million unintended pregnancies around the world and reduce maternal deaths by one third of the estimated 303,000 maternal deaths that occurred in 2016.

“Although modern contraceptive use has nearly doubled worldwide from 36 per cent in 1970 to 64 per cent in 2016,  we still have a long way to go to ensure that all women enjoy their right to decide whether, when or how often to become pregnant,” he said.

He called on religious, traditional and community leaders to take up the challenge of promoting the demand for the utilisation of family planning services to build a healthy society.

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