By Vivian Ihechu
Abuja – The Women Pre-Conference of the fifth Nigeria Family Planning Conference (NFPC 2018) on Monday in Abuja says there is urgent need to stem high teen birth rates in Nigeria.
According to it, this will help to curb maternal deaths in the country as well as improve better health and economic indices in the country.
The News Agency if Nigeria (NAN) reports that the conference has its theme as: “Investment, Innovation, Inclusiveness”.
MS Hauwa Shekarau, the Country Director, IPAS Nigeria, in a paper presentation: “Accessing Family Planning Commodities of Choice: Barriers and Perceptions’’, said the high rates have been attributed to a number of barriers to access contraception.
“According to Demographic and Health Survey (2014), an estimated 23 per cent of women aged 15-19 years have begun childbearing, of which 17 per cent have had their first child and five per cent are pregnant with their first child.
“Also 32 per cent of teenagers in rural areas have begun childbearing, as opposed to 10 per cent in the urban areas of Nigeria.
“This survey shows disparities within the geopolitical zones as follows: Northwest 36 per cent, Northeast 32 per cent, North Central 19 per cent, South South 12 per cent, South East eight per cent and South West eight per cent.’’
According to the study, she says, the statistics reveal a direct relationship between the level of education and rate of early pregnancies.
“The northern part of Nigeria, with the lowest literacy rates has the highest rates of early pregnancies.
“The explanation given is that the higher the level of education, the higher the level of contraceptive use and awareness about risks and complications associated with early pregnancy.
“There is also correlation between poverty levels and early pregnancies,’’ she said.
Shekarau said that early pregnancies, frequent pregnancies, unplanned pregnancies as well as unsafe abortions can result in maternal deaths.
According to her, one of the most basic means of avoiding maternal deaths and unsafe abortion is by preventing pregnancy and Family Planning is one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent pregnancy.
However, she said there are barriers to accessing FP commodities and services.
“According to UNFPA 2017, one of the major barriers to accessing FP commodities is gender relationships.
“Gender stereotypes are still prevalent in Nigeria, where social norms often reinforce a power structure in which men are seen as breadwinners and women mainly as caretakers.
“Such views can lead to gender-based violence, lack of access to sexual and reproductive healthcare for women and to fathers, limited involvement in contraceptive choices and child development.
“Other barriers to FP commodity include unnecessary costly examinations and laboratory test requirements as a precursor for accessing hormonal contraceptives; providers of biases and beliefs.’’
She said: “Also, lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services for women and youth friendly centres where youths can easily access these modern contraceptives remains a concern in Nigeria.
“Other barriers include the high cost of supplies and limited numbers of outlets from which to obtain contraceptive supplies.
“Lack of sexuality education programmes in schools (and poor quality of programmes where they do exist) and cultural norms that limit the use of contraception is also a barrier to accessing FP commodities,” she said.
Shekarau said that to overcome these barriers, there should be increased knowledge and sensitisation, adequate funding and release of funds, strengthening and equipping health facilities, ensuring contraceptive availability and ensuring availability of data. (NAN)