This past week, the Government of Nigeria launched their Revised National Policy on Population for Sustainable Development, emphasizing the immediate measures needed to combat a fertility rate that is increasing exponentially each day. Through expanding access to modern family planning, counseling and commodities, as well as promoting birth spacing, the government aims to improve the standard of living for all Nigerians and improve the health of women and children.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and seventh globally, with a fast-rising fertility rate. This, paired with the ever-challenging maternal and childbirth mortality and morbidity indices; and a significant education-occupation mismatch in the context of informality and development, continues to affect our national GDP.
Half of the female population in Nigeria are in their reproductive years, and unfortunately, fewer than one out of five married women use family planning. The limited access due to supply chain failure, and lack of investment in education surrounding family planning for young people, has had a detrimental effect on our women, girls and children – putting their health at risk.
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated supply chain systems around the world, making it even more difficult for low-income countries to access potentially life-saving medical supplies and sexual and reproductive health services. While governments, NGOs such as my Wellbeing Foundation Africa, and private sector corporations are working together on innovative methods and policies to overcome these hurdles, the crippling effects will take time to recover from.
The reproductive and sexual health commodities supply chain is one of the systems which is suffering, leading to unsafe, unplanned, pregnancies that are fuelling an unsustainable population growth in Nigeria. The larger the population grows without choice and accessible education and healthcare, the more difficulties we will see arise in economic prosperity. A weakened GDP will contribute to higher inflation yet stagnated average incomes fuelling the cycle of poverty which is already deep-seated throughout the Nation.
Throughout the pandemic, my incredible WBFA frontline staff and midwives ensured that our Mamacare360 programs were able to continue safely, in an effort to tackle these growing gaps of inequality. Our Mamacare+Nlift in particular focused on family planning alongside IFA supplementation to combat anaemia. We expanded this program by recruiting more midwives and healthcare staff while broadening our reach to more healthcare facilities and healthcare service delivery areas, including home-care service and follow-up.
This grassroots advocacy and programme implementation allowed for an increase in local ownership of health services and supply chain management, which ensured improved access and sustainability to family planning programming.
Lack of access and supply chain failure are major factors in why women do not use contraceptives or discontinue doing so. Therefore, establishing, maintaining, and strengthening local supply chains is one of the fundamental components in achieving a demographic shift, economic growth and zero unmet need for modern family planning within Nigeria: to work towards a nation where every child is wanted, planned, and nurtured, from birth to age.
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