Dr. Ejike Oji is the Chairman of the Association of the Advancement of Family Planning (AAFP) and Chairman, Coalition for Maternal, Child, New Born and Adolescent Health Accountability in Nigeria (C4MAN). In this interview with APPOLONIA ADEYEMI, he discusses funding challenges, myths and misconceptions and other barriers limiting uptake of family planning services in the country
Do you have local sponsors that are funding family planning programmes in Nigeria?
The Federal Government commits some money but for individuals, organisations and private institutions we are trying to mobilise them because some international donors are withdrawing support currently.
Sir, for people that may not know, is family planning about population control?
No! What we are saying is that Family Planning is so key in terms of child survival and women’s health. What we are saying is that women should be able to space their children appropriately, limit the number of children they want and also not start their reproductive health production too early.
Research shows that the greater number of women that died during child birth is below 18 years. In fact they have the second highest number of deaths from pregnancy and pregnancy related cases. About 70 per cent are young women bellow the age of 18. That is, we shouldn’t allow our children to start having babies until they are more than 18 years.
What is the percentage of women who die as a result of pregnancy or pregnancy related cases in Nigeria?
Yes, now 576 deaths per 100,000 life birth and then it translate to about 40,000 women dying every year in Nigeria. The country with the highest number of death is India. Remember India’s population is about 1.2 billion but we are just about 183 million people.
So you can see the gross disparity and that is why we are saying people should embrace the use of family planning. If you look at the resources we have we are even better than most countries that are doing better than us.
Lack of proper funding and inefficient use of resources are part of the challenges we experience in implementing family planning programmes. Another problem is the barriers that are making women not to uptake services. Even though there is very high unmet needs like women wanting to access services but they are not getting it.
What are some of those barriers?
Some of the barriers! The most important barriers that we have seen are misconceptions. People feel that when they take family planning they won’t be able to have babies again or that something will happen to them. The other one is societal norms being religion and traditional beliefs. Those are some of the major barriers and that is why we centred on the interfaith in discussing that.
There are a lot about issues like negative reaction of family planning use in some women. For instance some women after adopting use of family planning will experience protruding tummy. What do you think is responsible for that?
Family planning is such medical services that are personal. What is good for you might not be good for the next person and that is why we are saying that practitioners must be properly trained to provide services.
You shouldn’t just go somewhere t o access family planning. You must be properly counseled. The reason is that what is good for you might not be good for the next person. There are so many methods. It is during the counseling that practitioners will identify the one that is good for each person. And give that one that is specifically for you and you won’t have any problem.
Some complained of not being able to conceive again after stopping to use family planning especially when they want to start having babies, why?
None of the family planning methods give you long term infertility once you stopped. In fact once you stop it you will return to full fertility.
What is the current situation on the use of family planning in Nigeria?
Modern contraceptive prevalence rate (MCPR) has improved from 10 per cent to 14.7 per cent, while unmet need is 16 per cent of women of reproductive age. Unmet need is the number of women who want to use contraceptives but are not getting family planning services.
What is your advice to women generally?
My advice to them is that they must adopt and use family planning if they are still sexually active and want to remain healthy and want their children to live. And also if they want to be alive to take care of their children they must see a medical doctor or midwife who will counsel and give them the method that is appropriate for them.
The reason is that good family planning methods save almost 30 per cent of maternal deaths. That is the direct effect. Family planning services is one magic bullet that improves maternal health and also improves infant and newborn and under 5 health.
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