Family Planning (FP) has been described as key strategy that can help to control and avert the implication of rapid population growth in Nigeria.
Commemorating the 2017 World Population Day (WPD), DevComs in a statement called for increased budgetary allocation for family planning, saying there are fears the rise in population growth will fuel poverty, hunger and civil strife. The theme for the 2017 WPD is Family Planning, Birth Spacing: Empowering People, Developing Nations.
The statement, which quoted the chairman of National Population Commission (NPC), Eze Duruiheoma, while speaking on the theme, said family planning and birth spacing are measures to attain a sustainable family size by way of allowing for adequate intervals between births, employing especially the use of contraception.
According to him, “Family planning is not only about saving lives but also empowering people and developing nations. Family and birth spacing are personal decisions but their profound implication on health, economic and social wellbeing of the society are far reaching. That is why simple individual-decision has become a developmental agenda that must be addressed on a sustainable note.”
Nigeria’s population is expected to surpass that of the US by 2050, according to new UN projections that predict the West African country could be the world’s third most populous by the end of this century. The 2013 NDHS results indicate that the TFR is 5.5 births per woman.
This means that, on average, Nigerian women will give birth to 5.5 children by the end of their childbearing years. Meanwhile, the goal of the National Policy on Population for Sustainable Development is to achieve a reduction in the total fertility rate of at least 0.6 children every five years (National Population Commission, 2004).
In a report by Matt Lesso on the Borgen Project, Nigeria is struggling with over-population and most residents of cities like Lagos live in severely overcrowded slums. Many houses and apartments consist of just one room to house entire families. More than 50 people can share a bathroom, sink and living space. Youth unemployment in urban areas is around 50 percent.
This has fuelled an increase in crime, which is rampant in many cities. This high level of youth unemployment has also helped fuel the rise of militant groups like Boko Haram; whereas Nigeria’s fertility rate is approximately 5.5 children per woman, i.e., a woman can still give birth to 5 or more children with/without the means of providing for them.
While some view this increase in population as a potential for more economic growth and status as a global hegemony, many others fear the population boom will cause the country to collapse.
“With family planning, population growth can be controlled, starting with individual family deciding how many children it can cater for, when to birth them and how to space them.”
In a statement reiterated by the Lagos State Team Leader of the Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative, NURHI, Dr. Omasanjuwa Edun has said that family planning is designed to help the family have quality life contrary to speculations that it was instituted to discourage procreation.
According to World Health Organization, family planning reinforces people’s rights to determine the number and spacing of their children. Family planning can be used to reduce maternal mortality, which is currently at 555/100,000 live births in Nigeria (NDHS 2013), because by preventing unintended pregnancy, family planning/contraception prevents deaths of mothers and children. With a well-planned family, parents are also able to take adequate care of children they already have.
Research has shown that family planning has a negative reputation among many Nigerians. Many have the misconception that family planning is all about reducing number of children to be birthed using risky medical interventions that can potentially cause major complications in women such as infertility.
However, family planning simply provides a safe, affordable and effective way to have children when you want them, and provides a period of ‘rest’ for mothers in-between pregnancies.
In a statement made by Mrs Toyin Saraki, who is founder of Wellbeing Foundation, she said that “Family planning information and contraception is a fundamental human right, empowering women to decide when and where to have a child, and how many children they wish to bear, according to their circumstances. We recommend that mothers space their childbirth by 1000 days, to better sustain the health and socio-economic wellbeing of mother, child and family.”
However, to provide family planning services, the government needs to increase funding for Family Planning and ensure increase in budgetary allocations for FP/CBS in the state to cover consumables, supplies and infrastructure, commodity, logistics, management, training of skilled providers and demand creation.
Global World Population Day is celebrated on July 11th every year. It is a global day to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues; and this year’s theme is emphasizing how access to safe, voluntary family planning is – and should be – a Human Right. It is also central to gender equality and women’s empowerment.