COVID+19: ‘Fund family planning to avert deaths”- group tells Niger State Government

Tunde Bolaji – Minna

A Non governmental Organization has urged the Niger State to improve funding for Maternal and Reproductive Health services amidst COVID-19 so as to reduce death of women and girls resulting from Reproductive Health complications in the State.

State Technical Working Group on Child Spacing and the Adolescent Youth Reproductive Health expressed concern over the inadequate funding for the sector leading to increased possibilities for complications and death among women in the state.

It noted that in 2017, the State government made a commitment to increase Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CRP) from 6.6% to 25% by 2020 with a state vision for family planning expressed in the State cost Implementation Plan (CIP).

While raising the questions on how attainable the commitment would be if budgetary allocations are not released on time, the TWG led by the Project Director of the Centre for Communication and Reproductive Health (CCRHS), Dr. Aliyu Yabagi Shehu, said “from 2015 to 2020 over N250 million have been allocated in the State Budget to family planning with only N15.5 million released.”

The projects of the CIP, if implemented is expected to avert 250,000 unintended pregnancies, 90,000 abortions, and 2500 maternal deaths within 2018 and 2020, this will create a demographic dividend that boosts economic growth and breakout from the cycle of poverty.

The TWG meeting, which was held on 25th June 2020 in Minna with the support of the Centre for Communication and Reproductive Health, CCRHS, a sub grantee of the PACFaH@Scale project, expressed fear that more women could die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth due to severe funding shortages to Maternal and Reproductive Health Services Amidst Covid-19 response.

“We met to deliberate on the activities of the platform and to reflect on issues related to child spacing services in the state, celebrate successes, strengthen achievements and strategies to mobilize resources and to generate political will of government toward addressing challenges associated with family planning in Niger State.

“If lifesaving reproductive health services are not provided this will have catastrophic consequences for women of reproductive age in the State.

“There is a need for the government to continue to improve access to health facilities for effective Reproductive Health services at all times to protect the health and safety of women of reproductive age and girls in the state.

“We call for the urgent release of Family Planning Funds to effectively provide adequate lifesaving reproductive healthcare and women’s protection services until the end of 2020″.

He further disclosed that, additional funds are needed for the COVID-19 response to protect health workers and women accessing reproductive health services in the State and conflict -affected LGAs of the state.

Yabagi also warned that, with the fast-growing population, Niger state will be required to take measures to ensure population management so as to attain the State’s demographic dividends

He declared ,”improved investment in the health sector will address the challenges facing reproductive health issues in the State.”

However, he expressed concern that despite State’s commitment to addressing socio-cultural norms such as the preference for large families, the majority of young people, especially females lack sufficient information on reproductive health options with limited access to family planning services.

He noted that although the state has agreed to improve the financing of its family planning program at all levels, budgetary allocation of family planning in the 2020 budget has fallen drastically.

Dr. Yabagi however disclosed that for Niger State to harvest positive health indicators there is the need to do more for the population in terms of increased funding and access to family planning services and reducing inequities in the health delivery system.

He therefore, called on the government to show more commitment towards tackling the rising population growth and curbing the dangers of obstetric complications of women. They also called on all stakeholders to lend their voices to this important issue to advance the health of the women of the state.

“We encourage all stakeholders (Media, Religious Group, Traditional Leaders and CSOs) to be a voice in ensuring that universal access to health care is available for young women and investment in contraceptives and unmet needs for family planning are available in Niger State”

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