On this day, every year, the world marks the International Day of the Girl Child. This year’s theme is “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: What Counts for Girls.” As Nigeria looks to celebrate its Girls today, the Association for the Advancement of Family Planning (AAFP) deems it important that we put the health of our Girls at the forefront of celebrations.
As part of the preparations to commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child 2016, AAFP performed a desk review of the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey, towards highlighting the key challenges faced by women and girls across Nigeria. From the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey, Nigeria has approximately 68 million women, with 30 million of these women falling into their reproductive age, and therefore being capable of getting pregnant. Out of these 30 million women of reproductive age, 6 million Nigerian girls and women get pregnant each year, with 5 million childbirths each year.
Nigeria has a reported maternal mortality ratio of 576 women per 100,000. When calculated against our total numbers of pregnancies and childbirths, the maternal mortality ratio translates to the death of approximately 40,000 women in Nigeria every year, as a result of pregnancy, childbirth, or conditions aggravated by the pregnancy.
In context, this translates to 111 girls and women dying every day, or 5 girls and women dying every hour in Nigeria!
Evidence from research studies show that successful Family Planning or Child Spacing programs contribute to about 30% reduction of the maternal mortality ratio. This includes both natural and modern methods of Family Planning or Child Spacing.
Investing in Family Planning not only has the potential to save the lives of hundreds of women and girls every day, it also provides other benefits for Nigerian children and families. The World Health Organisation states that a woman’s ability to space and limit her pregnancies has a direct impact on her health and wellbeing and the outcome of each pregnancy, with an added positive impact on the family and the National Economy.
The Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition and Family Planning toolkit highlights key benefits of Family Planning or Child Spacing on nutritional outcomes for infants and young children. It highlights that children conceived within 6 months of a previous pregnancy face 42% greater odds of having low birth weight, compared to those conceived after a 36 – 47 month interval. The toolkit also highlights that unintended pregnancies are associated with a high-risk of stunting for the child.
Additionally, the ability of a mother to receive a resupply or re-orientation on Family Planning or Child Spacing at the time of penta 2 and penta 3 contacts, provide added incentive for mothers to return to the clinic on schedule, which increases both immunization and family planning or child spacing uptake. Family Planning or Child Spacing also enhances parental attention and care, and so reduces the risk of illnesses such as pneumonia or diarrhea, and ensures that when such illnesses occur, parents can spot them quicker and can potentially seek care sooner. All of these can significantly contribute to a reduction in the deaths of children under-5 years old.
While Nigeria has made progress in Family Planning or Child Spacing through a supportive policy environment, provision of free contraceptives in public sector facilities, developing and costing a national blueprint with the goal to scale-up FP services and uptake, and as an outcome of the Commitment made by Federal government at the 2012 London Summit on family planning, the program remains grossly underfunded. Available evidence shows that the budgetary provision for Health in Nigeria is grossly inadequate, and this in turn means that available funding is also inadequate to specifically allow individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of their births.
When Nigeria invests in girls’ health, safety, education and rights – in times of peace and crisis – we empower these girls to reach for their dreams and build better lives for themselves and their communities. Investing in girls’ health also ensures that Nigeria can make progress in achieving the sustainable development goals.
Increasing the health budget will ensure that programs that work to meet the National demand for Family Planning can be funded, towards saving the lives of Nigerian girls and reaping benefits across the liked issues.
The Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PACFaH), a partnership project of indigenous non-governmental organizations, working to improve the health and wellbeing of Nigerian children and families commends the work done so far by the Executive and Legislative Arms of the government in preparation for the proposal, defense and approval of the 2017 budget. PACFaH is particularly pleased at the perceived commitments from all sections to ensure an increase in annual allocations to health through the Health Budget. We look forward to translation of these commitments into outcome.
PACFaH would like to call on the National Assembly to show their commitments to the Girl Child by ensuring that the relevant programs for child and family health are adequately budgeted for, and the overall 2017 Health budget is increased.
Onumonu, National Coordinator, AAFP