Nigeria not investing in family planning

Health economists estimate Nigeria will need to invest at least $603 million (around N189.7 billion) by next year in family planning to reach its target of ensuring at least 36 out of every 100 women of child-bearing age get access to modern contraception methods.

But experts meeting in Abuja at the launch on Thursday of The Challenge Initiative (TCI) said Nigeria was underfunding family planning, which is core to the health of children, mothers, national development and the future of the country.

In a guest lecture, provost of the college of health sciences at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Dr Adesegun Fatusi, said, “We are not making the critical investment even though we know what to do.”

He cited data showing 3.5m pregnancies could be avoided and more than 31.000 women saved from dying, if all women were able to plan their pregnancies and birth through modern family planning.

“Twenty-one percent of births are induced or unplanned. With [family planning] we can knock off a fifth of all maternal deaths,” said Fatusi in remarks making the case for investing in family planning.

“The argument is simple. If we are going to improve the lives of our children, we must invest in family planning.”

He noted family planning was key to managing the population and reducing burden.

Up to N47 billion could be saved in health spending, N271 billion saved for primary education and rice need reduced by at least 4 million metric tonnes.

Challenging cities

The TCI, funded by the Gates Foundation, challenges states or cities to “step forward and demonstrate their willingness, readiness and ability to address their reproductive health challenges,” according to Victor Igharo, programme manager for TCI Nigeria, with similar versions in Tanzania, Kenya and India.

Director of Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative II, Mojisola Odeku, said TCI is the “business unusual” method to cut barriers to accessing family planning, which individual cities or states will own.

Five states—Ogun, Kano, Taraba, Abia and Plateau—have already expressed interest in the challenge.

States opt into the challenge, instead of being selected by implementers. They express interest, develop their own proposal, provide matching resources in finance or other means and implement once it is approved.