…Contraception averts 12,000 maternal deaths
By Sola Ogundipe
More women are embracing the use of modern contraceptives. No less than 1,713,000 additional Nigerian women and girls that want to avoid or delay pregnancy have embraced the use of at least one modern method of contracetive according to the 2018 Annual Report on family planning, launched at the 5th International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) held in Kigali, Rwanda.
From the report, the use of modern contraception is on the rise in Nigeria as the Federal government works to expand family planning services. The rate of modern contraceptive use among married women increased to 12.2 percent.
Nigeria is grouped among the nations with the most fertile women in the world. A Nigerian woman gives birth to an average of 5.5 children in her lifetime. Since 2012, the Federal government of Nigeria has worked with key stakeholders to address socio-cultural norms such as preference for large families, religious tenets, and women’s lack of decision-making power related to sexual and reproductive health.
The new report says a total of 2,060,000 unintended pregnancies, 735,000 unsafe abortions and 12,000 maternal deaths were all averted in the country between July 2017 and July 2018 even as a total of 6.2 million Nigerian women aged 15-49 of reproductive age are now using at least one modern method of contraception.
The report tagged “Catalysing Collaboration: 2017 – 2018”, said about 46 million additional women and girls that want to avoid or delay pregnancy in the world’s 69 poorest countries have embraced the use of at least one modern method of contraception since 2012.
The rise, which is a 30 percent increase, brings the total number of women and girls accessing modern contraceptives in all the countries to 317 million.
The report affirms that use of modern contraceptives is growing the fastest in Family Planning (FP2020) countries in Africa and as of July 2018, 24 percent of women of reproductive age in these countries are using a modern method.
The annual report which for the first time, documents domestic government spending on family planning in 31 countries, observed that while some countries spend less than US$50,000 per year on family planning, others have committed more than US$200 million annually.
According to the report, domestic government spending on family planning in Nigeria totaled $8.5 million in 2016 – compared to $19 million in Kenya and $8.1 million in Burkina Faso.
“Rights-based family planning is a catalyst that unlocks the potential of girls and women in Nigeria and around the world. Our goal is to ensure that each one is able to exercise her basic rights to self-determination, health, dignity, and equality. This is a core strategy for countries to improve the health and well-being of their citizens and economy,” said Beth Schlachter, Executive Director of Family Planning 2020.
“Women represent half the global population, and there can be no healthy population globally or in Nigeria without reproductive health care. As we continue to build the framework for Universal Health Coverage (UHC), we must ensure access to full, free, voluntary contraception is included for all women and girls. As countries build UHC strategies, rights-based family planning and SRHR services must be integrated within primary health care systems,” she added.
Nigeria has made inroads in financing its national family planning programme at state level, through availability of and access to services and commodities, while reducing the total fertility rate. The focus has been on dispelling myths and misconceptions about family planning, expanding the provision of family planning services and supplies and enabling informed choices by women and girls.
Highlighting these and other findings as the report was officially released by the Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), speakers at the conference, called for sustained financing and support for family planning initiatives across Africa and the world in general.
However, it was noted that despite this progress, still only 13.8 percent of women aged 15-49 are using modern contraception in Africa’s most populous nation, and one-in-four (28.4 percent) of married women aged 15-49 still have unmet need for modern contraception.
The report has been produced by Family Planning 2020 – a global partnership that supports the rights of women and girls to freely decide whether, when, and how many children they want to have and for the first time ever includes new data on government spending on family planning. The FP2020 goal is to enable additional 120 million women to access voluntary contraception by 2020.
At the conference, global leaders and health advocates highlighted high-impact, country-led family planning programs, and rubbed minds on the future of the family planning movement.
Rwandan Prime Minister Édouard Ngirente who spoke at the opening, called for enhanced investment in family planning across Africa and the rest of the world.
He emphasized the extensive and far-reaching social and economic benefits of investing in family planning and called for global commitments to address challenges in contraception access.
“Family planning is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve the wellbeing of people in all countries. The African continent is very youthful and the biggest challenges facing African leaders today is how to harness our youthful population into agents of sustainable development. Investment in young people and in human capital, in general, can enable us to harness a demographic dividend across our continents,” Ngirente said.
Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, Dr. Natalia Kanem, noted: “As of July 2018 the number of women and girls using a modern contraception was the highest in history. It’s my biggest worry that we still have a long way to go to bring lifesaving modern contraceptives to every woman and girl who wants to prevent pregnancy no matter where she is or who she is, so it’s time to pick up the pace. Let us build on the progress we’ve made until we achieve our ultimate goal: universal access.”
President of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Christopher Elias, stated: “If we’re going to keep our promise [to women and girls], we have to think differently, go beyond linear thinking and be disruptive. This is essential to bend the curve and get ourselves on track for universal access by 2030.”
The ICFP serves as a strategic inflection point for the family planning community worldwide. It provides an opportunity for scientists, researchers, policymakers and advocates to disseminate knowledge, celebrate successes and identify next steps toward reaching the goal of enabling an additional 120 million women to access voluntary, quality contraception by 2020.
The outing which concluded with reaffirmed commitment towards ensuring every woman and girl has access to high-quality, affordable family planning information and services, agreed that the development is in line with progress toward the FP2020 goal of adding 120 million contraceptive users by 2020, and achievement of universal access to sexual and reproductive health services by 2030.