Studies have shown that family planning protects the health of women and children as well as reduces ugly risky overpopulation burdens by helping a family to plan and responsibly fulfill its parental roles.
The media is replete with many reports which X-rays the roles of family planning in population control, more so in view of the newest Nigeria’s population figures which is put at 201 million.
It was therefore not surprising that critical stakeholders in the health sector have urged the Federal Government to invest in family planning programmes to check population explosion.
There call came at the background of the just concluded 2019 World Population Day celebration.
Stakeholders, who spoke with DAILY INDEPENDENT, said Nigeria’s rising population remained a threat to the country’s economic and social development.
They maintained that the little resources meant for certain number of people, were being stretched for more people due to the large population, thereby stagnating the country’s future development and advancement.
The Country Director, Pathfinder International, Dr. Jega Farouk, said the focus of this year’s World Population Day should be on how to address the country’s impending demographic explosion. With our population estimated to be the fourth highest in the world by 2030, Farouk said Nigeria should focus on how to ensure a more sustainable population growth, by increasing access to voluntary and quality family planning services.
“Unfortunately, the 2019 budget as signed by the President shows a reduction, rather than an increase in the budget allocation for contraceptive commodities in the country,” he added.
He said the impact of unchecked population growth, especially one that does not align with GDP growth, needs to be understood and addressed.
“We will be heading for a demographic disaster with the current growth rate in population, especially given that the majority of the populace is made up of young people who should be productive.
“Unfortunately, they are mostly untrained, uneducated, unskilled and unemployed.
The result is the increased spates of insecurity we are currently faced with.
This therefore calls for government intervention to address this unsustainable growth rate,” says the Country Director.
He said; “Fortunately, we have an opportunity to turn this demographic scenario into an opportunity to achieve the so-called demographic dividend.
This window of opportunity will not last forever, and will not happen automatically.
“We have to invest in the education, health (include access to family planning) and jobs for these army of young people, turn them into a productive workforce that will contribute to our GDP growth.
“The media can support information and public awareness efforts in communities.
There are many misconceptions around family planning that can be addressed with the right information.”
Farouk however urged the media to consistently provide correct and easily understood information on the advantages of family planning dispel misconceptions around side effects and hold government accountable to fulfill its FP2020 and other commitments made in support of family planning.
On his part, Programme Director, Development Communications (DevComs) Network, Akin Jimoh said 25 years after the historic International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), there is need to support the National Population Commission (NPoPC) to reflect on the best ways to solve the issue of population explosion in Nigeria.
The government needs to place population management at the front burner of their policy making and allocation of resources, especially investment in programmes like family planning services, says Jimoh in a statement to mark the international day.
He added that prioritising and investing in family planning will help the government save money that can be invested in other development programmes like education, health and job creation.
Contributing, the Chairman, Association for the Advancement of Family Planning (AAFP), Dr. Ejike Oji decried the challenges of Nigeria’s bourgeoning population and the Federal Government’s approach in tackling the menace.
Dr. Oji told DAILY INDEPENDENT that there was a disconnection between what the nation was currently doing and what it was supposed to do in terms of policies and the actions being taken.
For example, he noted that the country currently has a demographic crisis: 64 per cent of the nation’s population is under the age of 25 years and 45 per cent of the population is under the age of 15 years, making them a largely dependent and largely unemployable.
According to him, the only place that these categories of persons can be employed is in the agrarian industry, adding that although, the Federal Government was doing a lot to improve that sector, it was not paying off, considering that people could not return to the farms based on increasing insecurity in that sector.
Similarly, Oji cited the examples of Nigerian professionals migrating to overseas, where they were seeking greener pastures. Over 40,000 Nigerians are practicing medicine abroad.
“This is just a tip of the iceberg,” Oji said, adding that there were many in Europe, Canada and elsewhere.
Similarly, Oji noted that the one that was mind boggling was what was happening with the nation’s unskilled migrant population, given the risk to their lives while crossing the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. He cited the example of nine Nigerians that were killed recently at migrant camp in Libya.
The latest examples, he said was evident in what is happening in the country where nationals were killing nationals: militancy in the south west, kidnappings in the Niger-Delta, ethno-religious crisis in the Plateau, Boko Haram in the north east, banditry in the North West and farmer-herders crisis taking place all over the federation.
Placing these background in perspective, the chairman of AAFP said these are the kind of activities that could happen when a nation’s youthful populations were largely unemployed, saying they would be easily recruited by mischief makers, religious bigots, kidnappers, robbers, among others because they got nothing doing.
Highlighting other factors hindering Nigeria from curbing its population at an appreciable rate, he said in the 2019 appropriation, family planning budget was slashed by over 80 per cent.
Instead of $4 million dollars, what the federal government released was about $980,000 dollars as counterpart funding, meanwhile the country needs about $26 million dollars to purchase family planning commodities. “That is why I said there was a disconnection between what we are doing and what we are supposed to be doing”.
Oji further blamed a lot of state governments for inaction. While the Federal Government purchases family planning commodities, he lamented that most of the state governments that were supposed to buy the consumables with which to administer the family planning commodities do not have budget lines.
“This is why the prevalence of family planning uptake in the country remains low at 12 per cent, going the 2019 NDHS.”
While family planning prevalence in the country for about 10 years was 10 per cent of women in their reproductive age 15 to 45 years, Oji was worried that unmet need is about 19 per cent of people in their reproductive age.
“This is very low and calls for worry,” he said. Unmet need is the number of women of reproductive age who want to use family planning, but are not getting the services due to one reason or another.
Oji said, “There is no way the populace can get democratic dividends until we reduce our fertility rate.”
On the solution, Oji called for extra-budgetary allocation to make up for family planning budget that was under-funded.
He also urged state governments to come together and put money into the common basket that the federal government uses, which could be given to the UNFPA to increase the commodities that are purchased for the country.
According to Oji, the real disaster would happen next year because the country does forward-buying. “The UNFPA pays for the family planning commodities one year in advance.
“Sadly, this year, we have a shortfall of about $8 million dollars. If that shortfall is not met, it means that next year, we will not have commodities.
“There will be a great shortage of family planning commodities next year. That is a disaster waiting to happen.”
He lamented that the country already has an unmet need of 19 per cent. Nineteen per cent of women in the reproductive age 15 to 49 years are saying: we need this family planning, but we are not getting it.”
The gyneacologist said if the country invests in health, appropriate education, provides an environment of justice, peace and tranquility and creates at the atmosphere that would create jobs, “Nigeria will transform to be a very rich country. But, if we do not, it is anarchy.”