•Demand for birth control rises
By Sola Ogundipe
The COVID-19 lockdown did not stop Nigerians from lovemaking. Amid the social distancing, face mask wearing and safe hygiene practices to prevent the highly contagious viral infection, an appreciable number of Nigerians perceived the period as perfect to engage in sexual intercourse with a partner or spouse,
With the lockdown in place nationwide for several weeks, the consumption of key family planning methods from condoms and implants, to intra uterine devices, IUDs, and permanent method, services such as post abortion care, PAC, were in demand twice as much during the months of March and May as they were in January and February.
Preference for short-term family planning methods topped the list of demands for the commodities during the lockdown compared to the two months previously. For the implants, demand rose to 405,858 from 209,355 pre-COVID, even as demand for IUDs doubled from 44,907 to 92,773; and from 48 to 92 for the permanent methods. The demand for post abortion care also doubled from 31,087 to 62,980
A total of 1,903,081 short- term contraceptive methods were dispensed within the three months of the lockdown compared to 1,519,546 in the previous two months.
During a family planning webinar organized by Marie Stopes International Organisation, Nigeria, MSION, and the Federal Ministry of Health for the Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria, NRHJN, it was revealed that a total of 793,601 unintended pregnancies and 279, 538 unsafe abortions were prevented during the lockdown, thanks to the availability and accessibility of family planning services.
Over the same period, 300,000 unsafe abortions and 4,000 maternal deaths were averted, while an estimated 3,968 maternal deaths including 19,781 child deaths were averted
The Country Director, Marie Stopes International Organisation Nigeria, MSION, Dr Effiom Nyong Effiom, who disclosed this, said 77,628 persons across the country were using at least one family planning method during the lockdown. Effiom stated that client visits to supported facilities increased by 22 percent intra COVID 19.
A close look at the data indicated there was increase in the practice of unsafe termination of unintended and unwanted pregnancies during the lockdown. In the two months pre- lockdown, 31,087 persons received post abortion care, but demand increased in the following three months with 62,980 persons receiving the services.
The Director/Head Reproductive Health Division, FMOH, Dr. Kayode Afolabi, said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the provision of RH/FP Services at the global level exposed the fragility of the supply chain, especially as manufacturing, shipping logistics were slowed or halted.
He said there was a sharp decline in the uptake of family planning services during the initial phase of the lockdown. Services were interrupted at tertiary, secondary and primary health facilities essential because reproductive health and family planning services were not prioritised in theresponse plan at national and state levels.
But as part of the renewed response, family planning commodity supplies and services are being integrated into the overall National Health Response, even as the community-based family planning programme has been strengthened to ensure that clients receive services and commodities within their immediate communities including in humanitarian settings.