Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: 'Informed Choice, Magic Bullet for Sustained Family Planning'

SUSTAINED health information and an enabling environment for enterprise have been identified as the magic bullets that would enable development of robust family planning programmes towards enabling reduction of unintended pregnancies and maternal mortality and morbidity in the country.

Country Director, Ipas, Dr. Ejike Oji who stated this in Abuja during the 2nd National Family Planning Conference with the theme "Population and National Development" , reaffirmed that promoting knowledge and use of modern contraceptives would not only reduce maternal mortality (especially from unsafe abortion) and child mortality by 25-30 percent (MDGs 4 and 5), but will also serve as a key indicator for national development.

"We need to start giving women the ability to regulate their fertilityand to manage the number of children they wish to have, while ensuring that men are more actively involved in the national family planning crusade.

"Health information is crucial because no matter how illiterate a woman is, if she is given family planning information in a language she understands, she will take care of herself. Our women are very proactive, " Oji affirmed.

Noting that at the current fertility rate of six children per woman, Nigeria was unable no attain its desired family planning goal, the Ipas spokesperson said available and accessible family planning and health information would help improve the national maternal health outcomes and outcomes of family planning outcomes.

"It is about informed choices. The perspective is that people should be able to manage their fertility. People should be able to prevent an unwanted pregnancy before it happens with appropriate contraception, but if an unwanted pregnancy does occur, then the woman should be given a choice whether to keep it with access to good antenatal care or safely terminate it with the right medical expertise and facilities."

At the conference attended by participants comprising representatives from the 36 States of the Federation, development partners, religious/traditional leaders, Civil Society Organisations, women and youth organisations, the private sector,media, among others, calls were made for immediate passage of the National Health Bill to help fund primary level care services and to instil family planning as a national priority to sustain the free contraceptive policy of the nation.

Expressing concern that funds provided by Federal government for family planning falls short of what is required, the participants tasked government to increase the annual budget for family planning to ensure family planning programme is fully funded by all the three tiers of government by 2020 to enhance sustainability.

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