The challenge of funding family planning in the country may lead to increasing unwanted pregnancies and abortions, according to the United Nations Population Fund.
It stated this at an event to mark the 2023 World Population Day organised by the National Population Commission in Abuja on Tuesday.
During a panel discussion titled ‘Dialogue on financing and investment in family planning: meeting the growing demand of Nigerian women’, Technical Specialist, Maternal & Reproductive Health, UNDP, Dr Adeela Khan, said that the funding gap for family planning was widening, increasing from $25m in last year to $32m in 2023.
According to her, this funding gap would lead to 700,000 unintended pregnancies, which would further lead to 300,000 unplanned births and 300,000 unsafe abortions.
She said, “Family planning programme is largely dependent on funding, and that is dwindling funding. As far as 2022, there was a gap of $25m. This year, we are looking at a gap of $32m. What is very important about this gap is that if you are casting it, there will be 700,000 unintended pregnancies, which will result in approximately 300,000 unplanned births and 300,000 unsafe abortions.”
Khan, however, noted that the government had been making some efforts through policies, such as the National Policy for Population and Sustainable Development in 2022, and financial commitment to ensuring family planning.
She added, “The Nigerian government has been recognising the importance of investing in family planning.”
Also speaking during the panel discussion, an experienced Public Health Practitioner, Dr Gafar Alawode, said that the rising population in the country was alarming.
He added that the population was growing faster than the economy, which was detrimental.
Alawode said, “Nigeria is producing the size of Liberia, Togo, and maybe Sierra Leone combined every year. Why it is more dangerous is that our population grows faster than our economy. The implication is that the wealth is not expanding, but the people consuming the wealth are expanding. That means the share that comes to each individual is reduced. And Nigeria is already a poverty capital.”
The UNFPA Executive Director, Dr Natalia Kanem, who was represented by UNFPA Nigeria Acting Resident Representative, Ms Erika Goldson, noted that 19 per cent of married women in Nigeria could not exercise their right to make decisions, especially regarding having children.
She further stressed the need for women to be empowered, adding that such empowerment would benefit human capital and inclusive economic growth.
She said, “Realising sexual and reproductive health and rights for all is the foundation for gender equality, dignity, and opportunity. Nevertheless, over 40 per cent of women around the world and 19 per cent of married women in Nigeria cannot exercise their right to make decisions as fundamental as whether or not to have children. Empowering women and girls, including through education and access to modern contraception, helps to support them in their aspirations — and to chart the path of their own life.
“Advancing gender equality is a crosscutting solution to many population concerns. In ageing societies that worry about labour productivity, achieving gender parity in the workforce is the most effective way to improve output and income growth.
“Meanwhile, in countries experiencing rapid population growth, women’s empowerment through education and family planning can bring enormous benefits by way of human capital and inclusive economic growth.”
In her remark at the event, the Special Adviser on Health to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Dr Salma Anas, acknowledged the implications of the country’s population growth.
She said, “As we all know, population growth has far-reaching implications for socio-economic and environmental development. It is imperative to approach this issue with a holistic and sustainable mindset. One of the key aspects of sustainable development is investment in health and education.”