Today, 11th July 2017, Nigeria joins the world to mark the World Population Day, a day established by the United Nations in 1989 to raise awareness on global population issues and for every country, including Nigeria, to us more attention on the need to harness their populations productively to achieve demographic dividends, economic growth and sustainable development. UNFPA has it that around the world, some 225 million women, including Nigerian women, who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods, for various reasons ranging from lack of access to information or services to lack of support from their partners or communities. Most of these women, with fertility rate of about 6 with many of them desiring more children, having an unmet demand for contraceptives, live in both urban slums and rural areas. And, investments in making family planning available also yield economic and other gains that can propel development forward.

The theme for this year’s World Population Day is Family Planning, Child Spacing: Empowering People, Developing Nations. The emphasis is on Family Planning as a key strategy to economic growth and sustainable development. This therefore means that when access to quality family planning services is provided as a right, it empowers couples, women and individuals to space the births of their children and to achieve their desired family size in a sustainable way. Family planning and/or child spacing is therefore a voluntary informed personal decision but its profound implications on health, economic and social well being of the society are far reaching. That is why simple individual rights and choices have become a developmental agenda that must be addressed and integrated on sustainable basis into national, state and local development agenda. As the theme of the 2017 World Population Day suggests, family planning/child spacing is not only about saving lives of mothers and their children, it’s also about empowering the people, improving the quality of their lives and achieving sustainable development.

According to the UNFPA and the 2013 National Demography and Health Survey report, Nigeria has continued to report very high maternal deaths arising from complications of pregnancies and child birth. Currently, 576 women per 100,000 lives birth die every year from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. This figure translates to 111 women dying daily. Evidence also shows that more than 16 percent of women who seek to use family planning services fail to gain access to such services that would have enabled them space or limit their pregnancies. These situations demand urgent attention.

Evidences from research studies show that successful family planning programmes contribute to 33 percent reduction of maternal mortality. Consequently, meeting the unmet need for family planning can help Nigeria reduce maternal mortality and child mortality by 20 percent. Nigeria, hitherto, has more than 10% of all global under five deaths and carries a disproportionate burden of childhood mortality. In addition, giving women the right to access the voluntary family planning services will go a long way in fulfilling unmet need for Family Planning and consequently save more lives.

Women who use family planning are healthier and face lower risks of maternal death. Children born to women who space their pregnancies tend to be healthier and face less risk of death in the first five years of live. Women with choices and greater reproductive health are better empowered to seek and keep better jobs and contribute more to their families’ and nation’s prosperity. Their families are better-off financially and their children receive better education, helping trigger a cycle of prosperity that carries well into future generations. This produces demographic dividends and enhances global prosperity.

Voluntary family planning as a human right is central towards poverty reduction; it’s indeed central to gender equality and cannot be easily wished away. Family Planning as a life saving intervention is not only crucial in normal situations, it is also critical during humanitarian crises which are often characterised by sexual violence, intimate-partner violence, child marriage and high-risk behaviours such as survival, transactional and commercial sex. Universal access to modern family methods is therefore imperative for all women of reproductive age. Yet, over six million women who want to avoid pregnancy are currently not using safe and effective family planning methods.

Meeting the demand for modern contraceptives for all six million women in Nigeria would cost, only, $11 per contraceptive user for a whole year of supplies and services. If adequate funding is provided for the health sector, investment in family planning could consequently receive a boost. In this regard if married women who desire family planning would have their needs met, Nigeria’s modern contraceptive prevalence rate would rise from the current 10 percent to the stipulated national target of 36 percent by 2018.

Investing in family planning is investing in the health and rights of women and couples worldwide. Investing in family planning as a right is the right and very positive thing to do. Nigeria has a rapidly growing population with a large pool of young people. When the size of the dependent population shrinks relative to the size of those of working age, it creates an economic advantage. From the combination of increased wage earners, decreased dependency and implementation of the right policies we can fuel major economic growth.

On 25 September 2015, Nigeria was among the 193 member states of the United Nations to unanimously adopt the 2030 Agenda for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that aim to transform the world. These Goals are designed to eliminate poverty, discrimination, abuse and preventable deaths, address environmental destruction, and usher in an era of development for all people everywhere. Effective family planning program will facilitate the achievement of the SDGs. The goal of universal education will be achieved because there will be fewer children for school enrolment, unintended pregnancy is a major obstacle to school attendance, since many youths drop out of school once pregnancies occur. A lack of family planning is detrimental to achieving the goal of gender equality because unplanned pregnancies interrupt work and career plans and when women are unhealthy as a result of frequent birth (e.g. VVF, RVF etc) they are limited to fight for their right of equality and equity. In addition to saving cost through effective family planning programs, FP can contribute to reduction in child mortality by improving maternal health, promoting breast feeding and reducing the number of high-risk pregnancies that result in high levels of maternal and child illness and death. Spacing planned births and limiting unintended births increases child survival. Effective FP programme promotes environmental sustainability by curtailing the population and preserving the environment.

Achieving the world’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 will depend significantly on how well the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and young people are fulfilled. Catering to their unmet need for family planning is among the most cost-effective investments, Nigeria must make now and in the future overall. This statement from Late Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director (1949-2017) Nigeria’s own illustrious son captures it all

“For women to reach their full potential and be more economically productive, they must be able to exercise their right to decide for themselves whether, when or how often to have children. Upholding this right will lead to improvements in health and produce an array of benefits: greater investments in schooling, greater productivity, greater labour-force participation and eventually increased income, savings, investment and asset accumulation.”

To achieve these, all hands must be on deck and the time to do this is now.

Stakeholders call for Increase budget for Family Planning

Being press release by Devcoms Network for 2017 World Population Day in Lagos

As a strategy to control and avert the implication of rapid population growth in order to achieve sustainable development goals, stakeholders have called for increased budgetary allocation for family planning as Nigeria joins the rest of the work to mark 2017 World Population Day (WPD).


Speaking on the 2017 WPD theme, Family Planning, Birth Spacing: Empowering People, Developing Nations, in a recent release by National Population Commission (NPC), its Chairman, Chief Eze Duruiheoma, stated that 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.

Eze said that, “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”.

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.

Many fear this rise in population growth will fuel poverty, hunger and civil strife. But the problems will be particularly acute in Nigeria. While some view this increase in population as a potential for more economic growth and status as a global hegemon, 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 complication in women such as infertility, however family planning simply provides a safe, affordable and effective way to have children when you want them, and provide a period of ‘rest’ for mothers in between pregnancies.

In a statement made by Mrs Toyin Saraki Wellbeing Foundation founder, “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 a human right. It is also central to gender equality and women’s empowerment, Devcoms joins the rest of the world to commemorate this day as the health and wellbeing of a woman is vital to the wellbeing of a nation.