By Abdulmumin Murtala – Kano
Hajara Asabe, a mother of seven has been married for only eight years and is living a low-key life and struggling to not only cater to her children but also to attend to the unending domestic chores, including catering for the husband.
She gave birth to the first four children within the first five years of the marriage. The children are apparently malnourished, especially the first who is always sick.
She had no idea about family planning or child spacing when she got married, due to her very low level of education. She had barely completed her secondary education when she got married. The community, where she lives believes that the pride of a woman is to give birth to as many children as possible.
In fact, in some occasions, they engage in competing among the women folks on who gives birth to the highest number of children.
Although Hajara is proud of her children, they lack good welfare, good nutrition, access to good health-care, and a good environment.
She, including her husband and the seven children, lives in one room in a compound, comprising 10 rooms, sharing the same toilet and bathroom, with other similar families. They hardly have two good square meals per day, as her husband doesn’t earn much.
Hajara laments her plight, as a young mother of seven, without birth spacing or family planning.
“My first son is always ill and malnourished; he was denied breast milk because of his junior sister that needed to be breastfed. He hadn’t been breastfed enough since she was born. Therefore, both of them don’t weigh much, according to the doctors. And only about four months into the second birth, I got pregnant for the third time and the situation deteriorated the more.”
She further complained of not having enough access to health programs, especially the family planning and child spacing enlightenment, which she is ignorant of. “Although I am not particularly interested in family planning because my husband may not accept it, if much awareness and sensitization are intensified, numerous people will appreciate and embrace it.
More so, some of the public health workers shy away from their official responsibilities. Family Planning drugs meant to be distributed free or at subsidized rates are diverted and sold at exorbitant rates in the pharmacies. People, like us who can’t afford it end up not embracing the planning and child spacing practice.
Much need to be done and a lot of funds need to be spent in improving access to family planning services because lack of this essential service only promotes poverty, poor hygiene, as well as increases child death. The woman may never be healthy enough to take care of her children” she lamented.
Hajara’s comments corroborate the outcome of the media briefing on increasing public financing for childbirth spacing amidst Covid-19, hosted recently by the Women’s Integrated Services for Health (WISH) Program funded by UKAID. The Sustainability Lead for WISH, Dr. Michael Olawuyi says, “family planning has the ability to reduce maternal mortality, yield demographic dividends and save costs to the health system. This can accelerate sustainable development. Investment in Childbirth spacing is therefore a prudent investment”.
Hajara’s complaints and suggestions are generally what is envisaged in the developing countries, especially as they have been grappling, with a $793million funding gap since 2018 for supplies of contraceptives, as projected by the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition, global research, and advocacy group.
This heightens the fear of population explosion across the globe, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2100. A 2017 study had estimated that about $3.6billion would be required annually worldwide for women to access contraception facilities and a majority of them are in the developing countries and hardly access the needed funds due to the funding gap mentioned.
Definitely, there is a need for strong political will from the Nigerian Government, in particular, to prioritize increased funding for contraceptive commodities, sensitization campaigns, and capacity building for health workers on modern contraceptive techniques.
The current poverty rate of the country which places a large portion of the population in severe poverty and insufficient income necessitates families who hardly feed twice a day to embrace family planning services. Society in general is affected by insufficient funding of family planning.
Families with many children like those of Hajara can hardly train the children for a better tomorrow by giving them the needed education, healthcare, food, and nutrition as well as a good environment. Many of such families put together on a larger scale, constitute a major social catastrophe for the nation.
By 2050, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Egypt, are going to be the most populous nations in Africa with a combined population of 779 million. The population is driven by a high fertility rate and a rising cohort of women of reproductive age group (15-49 years). Economically, the performance of these countries as determined by the recent recession and outbreak of COVID-19 is on the downside as the recession is wildly taking over. Both local and international trades have been affected and inflation has risen by over seventy percent.
In fact in Nigeria, the government had declared some states bankrupt as the Gross Domestic Product had depreciated. Definitely in resolving such a situation more funds should be put into family planning to deter population growth and poverty together.
Indeed, family planning is a cost-effective healthcare service that needs funds to be implemented. Family planning services should be provided at all primary and secondary health facilities.
More so, community enlightenment activities as well as media campaigns should also be funded to raise family planning awareness. Poor funding is indeed a detriment to family planning service delivery and awareness. This funding gap may come to haunt Nigeria in the nearest future.
Undoubtedly, family planning services require urgent prioritization to place Nigeria on the path to poverty reduction and economic prosperity!