•Stories of men who study wives’ cycle for love making and child spacing

By Chioma Obinna

Population explosion, rising cases of abandoned babies and deaths from unsafe abortion have continued to be a source of worry to the Nigerian government and others globally.

More worrisome is the sale of babies by couples who apparently don’t want them.

According to the 2013 National Demographic Health Survey, NDHS, 37 children in every 1,000 live births die either at birth or before they reach age five in Nigeria. These children die every year either due to complications during birth or inability of the parents to provide adequate care.

While these babies continuing to die, four of their mothers die per hour during child birth, meaning that 96 of the country’s pregnant women die daily while bringing a life.

Meanwhile, a report of the fifth Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS5), released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), UNICEF and other key partners (2016 -2017), last week, showed that Nigeria made significant improvements in some areas like the infant mortality rate which dropped to 70 per 1000 live births from 97 in 2011. Others remain unchanged or have even worsened since 2011 because the country has failed to keep pace with its population growth.

However, to rewrite the sorry stories of these helpless mothers and innocent babies, as well as institute a culture of healthy babies and mothers, experts say men’s involvement in family planning is non-negotiable.  Sunday Vanguard reports.

Nigerian leaders and leaders from 192 other countries around the world made the famous Family Planning 2020 Commitment. The commitment was that by 2020, 120 million more women and girls in 69 of the least developed countries would have voluntary access to contraceptives and information about planning their families.

Since the London conference, spearheaded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNFPA and partners, several countries have increased their commitment to family planning including Nigeria. There has been significantly improved bilateral and multilateral funding to family planning initiatives globally. The FP 2020 Commitment has been about donating money as much as raising awareness and ensuring everybody, everywhere, plays his role.

Today, one area that is lacking in Nigeria remains getting men involved in family planning.  The gaps in access to family planning in Nigeria may not be unconnected with the fact that, right from the Bible, men have assumed the role of leadership in the home while women continue to be the help mates.  This religious or traditional role may have cascaded to other areas of family life including child spacing. However, with the advent of Family Planning Champions in some African countries, Nigerian men, though still have doubts about family planning, are now taking the centre-stage in ensuring a healthy family by controlling births in their various homes.

59- year-old Bola narrated to Sunday Vanguard his involvement in ensuring that his wife stays on family planning.  An encounter with him and other Nigerian men revealed gradual acceptance of family planning.  The encounter was revealing.

The father of three said: “After our marriage, I knew I should be in charge.  I grew up in a family of nine and I understood what my parents went through bringing us up.  Within me, I decided I must not leave child spacing in the hands of my wife.

“It may sound funny to you; until my wife went into menopause, we never had any mistake because I kept planning for about 10 years and I studied my wife’s cycle”.

Bola, who believed that contraceptive is 100 per cent effective, said he always used condom when he must make love to his wife at a time they didn’t need children. “If you master the usage (of condom), it is 100 per cent (effective). It does not only protect you from having unwanted children, it also serves as prevention for STIs. Condom has no side effect. I count myself lucky because I was able to understand my wife’s fertility cycle.” Kenneth Egwu, who described himself as a staunch Catholic, also said: “Even as a Catholic, I believe in child spacing.  My faith does not support family planning but during a marriage course, Billings’ method was introduced to us”.

Egwu, a father of two, explained that although people keep criticizing the method, it has helped him and his wife to space their children. “We enjoy sex like every other couple. My first child is eight years old while the second is four. It does not pay to bring children into this world only to make them suffer”.

To Sylvester Ogunleye, career parents with several goals require resources and time to achieve them.

Ogunleye, who is under serious pressure from family members, said: “My wife is currently on family planning and it was our decision to do so. In, fact, I personally asked for it. I have two children but planned to have four kids. We have agreed to space our children at least by three years.  Although my wife wanted them almost every year, I insisted on three years space despite pressures from family members.”

He said with family planning his wife still looks attractive and the children are healthy while his financial capability is not unduly stretched.

Another man, Mr. Vincent, said: “I am a family planning advocate and would recommend it for every couple. Children should be spaced for a minimum of two years and four maximum”.

He identified ignorance as a major reason most Nigerian men fail to buy into family planning.

Also, Mr. Paul, a father of four, criticised what he described as religious myths against family planning.

Paul argued that women are the ones sabotaging family planning as many of them, in desperate need of male children, pressure their husbands for more pregnancies.

“I personally educated my wife on why we should put a stop to child bearing.  We have two girls and two boys but my wife wanted more, “he added.

“Today, my wife is on family planning.  We took the decision together and now she is happy and I am happy.”

According to the World Health Organization, WHO, men are responsible for the large proportion of ill reproductive health suffered by their female partners. WHO findings also showed that male involvement helps not only in accepting contraceptive but also in its effective use and continuation.

In Nigeria, studies also showed that almost 99% of men are aware of modern contraceptives, and most of them know of at least two methods. However, the studies showed that there are many challenges to increase male involvement in family planning services. Meanwhile, very few interventions addressing these challenges have been evaluated scientifically. Health watchers are of the view that there is need for health education campaigns to improve beliefs and attitudes of men to achieve a successful family planning campaign. Additionally, improving accessibility, affordability, availability, accommodation and acceptability of family planning service venues will make them more attractive to male partners.

In a chat with Sunday Vanguard, Dr. Suleiman Zachariah, a Clinical Advisor working with Engender Health implementing FistulaCare Plus Project,  stressed the need for men to get involved in family planning issues because many women hide under different guises to visit hospital for family planning services without the consent of their husbands. “But involving men will give them license to visit hospital to receive services. And most family planning counselling sections encourage women to come along with their husbands. This increases uptake and creates understanding between husbands and wives and invariably leads to healthy families”.

He posited that men’s involvement in making decision when it comes to the health of women have been found to increase the outcome of family planning and also outcome of better maternal and child health.

Noting that many women have cited lack of men involvement, Zachariah said: “There is a very significant unmet need for family planning in our communities and to fill these gaps, involving the men is a very effective strategy that could be leverage to improve family planning access in the country and increase the fortunes of the country as well.”

The Federal Government had launched a Family Planning Campaign to achieve the goals of decreasing maternal and infant morbidity and mortality rate by ensuring that about 7.3 million women have access to family planning in the country.

According to the Director, Family Health Planning, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Abebimpe Adebiyi, dismissed the fear of side effect, norms and belief, misconception which, she said, has been a major factors affecting the use of contraceptive in Nigeria.

“Years after the first National Family Planning Campaign was launched, Nigeria has remained stagnated. Significant gaps still persist between knowledge and contraceptive use thereby creating marginal shifts in unmet needs for family planning in the country,” she said.

However, evidence shows that the decision on whether or not to adopt family planning is made by the husbands, therefore, men needed to also be educated on how to assist their spouses.

Health watchers are of the view that promoting family planning is beyond profit making and it places a duty on any organization or individual to act in the best interests of the environment in which it operates.


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