Nigerian population heading for explosion

By JETHRO IBILEKE

Few months ago, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari raised an alarm over the country’s burgeoning population, describing it as “frightening” and “a big challenge.”

According to the President, “By average estimates, our population is close to 200 million today. By 2050, UN estimates show that Nigeria will be third globally, behind only India and China with a projected population of 411 million. This is a frightening prospect, but only if we sit idly by and expect handouts from so-called development partners. The solution to our problems lies within us.”

The 2019 report by the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) says an average Nigerian woman now gives birth to at least five children, with many of these families not capable of caring adequately for the children. This frightening picture confirms the sad reality of the popular maxim in Yoruba language which says that abundant children will bring abundant poverty.

It is pertinent to say that true to President Buhari’s statement, we can no longer continue to rely on foreign handouts to deal with the issue of population explosion and its attendant poverty, which is truly frightening. But, that is if we continue to lament or sit idly by and expect others to come and help us. We must take action, and the time is now, because, the solution to the problem of population explosion lies within us- family planning.

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Wikipedia defines family planning services as educational, comprehensive medical or social activities which enable individuals, including minors, to determine freely the number and spacing of their children and to select the means by which this may be achieved.

Family planning may involve consideration of the number of children a woman wishes to have, including the choice to have no child, as well as the age at which she wishes to have them.

These matters are influenced by external factors such as marital situation, career considerations, financial position, and any disabilities that may affect their ability to have children and raise them. If sexually active, family planning may involve the use of contraception and other techniques to control the timing of reproduction.

To put it in plain language, family planning is all about having children by choice, not by chance, while contraception offers a great way to prevent pregnancy when the couple/woman/girl is not ready.

What factors could influence or inhibit the decision use family planning?

These include institutional inability of the Nigerian health system to provide women with quality counselling and access to contraceptive services; socio-cultural inhibitions and stigma, especially in rural communities; discouragement towards seeking reproductive health care services; and inability to reach adolescents with contraceptives.

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What are the benefits of family planning and what choices are available?

There are several options available, ranging from implants, injectables, condoms, etc, depending on what is good for the individual seeking family planning services.

During a training workshop organised recently for journalists from across the country by Marie Stopes International Organization Nigeria (MSION), participants were exposed to the importance and the various methods of family planning available and were also equipped with skills needed for creating the much needed awareness on the need to key into the use of family planning.

According to Mrs. Ogechi Onuoha, Head, (Marketing and Strategic Communication) MSION, “family planning is a human right, it is a key factor in reducing poverty, it is central to gender equality and women’s empowerment.”

In most developing countries, including Nigeria, some 214 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods, for reasons ranging from lack of access to information for themselves, their families and their communities.

Statistics show that 451 women and girls out of every 100,000, die from maternal causes in Nigeria. This is largely due to high fertility rate, unintended pregnancies and low use of contraceptives, an indication that Nigeria’s reproductive health situation has a lot to improve on.

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“To achieve this, a lot must be done to address the barriers to uptake of modern contraceptive methods, because, an increased uptake of modern family planning services will contribute to averting about 30 per cent of maternal mortality rate, allowing more women to remain in school, get educated and contribute to national development.

But unfortunately, though barriers such culture, religion, incorrect perception about health risks associated with modern family planning methods, opposition by partners, families or communities, low awareness and poor funding by governments at all levels, logistical problems, difficulty in travelling to access health facilities, and supplies running out at health clinics effective family planning in Nigeria has been hindered.

It is, therefore, hoped that governments at all levels will help stem the increasing maternal deaths, unintended pregnancies, and the impending population explosion by coming up with policies that will encourage the use of family planning, create more awareness, and increase funding of family planning services.