COVID-19: Family Planning experts alert governments on urgent need to arrest population explosion

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Authorities at the federal and state levels have been alerted on the urgent need to scale up efforts to arrest unmanageable population growth that might arise as a result of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

This could be done through increased annual health budgetary provision backed by family planning allocation releases.

Mrs. Rachael Obodo-Obunseli, the Chairperson Family Planning Advocacy Core Group in Delta State stated this at a media roundtable in Asaba at the weekend, with the theme, "Family Planning Budget Line Release: The Great Imperative in Delta State".

Obodo-Obunseli pointed out that recent widespread complaints about scarcity of family planning consumables has made such scaling up process inevitable.

The Chairperson allayed the wide spread fears that the current general movement restrictions and confinement of people to their homes could lead to increased unplanned pregnancies and births in the country.

She decried a situation where the distraction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could precipitate serious health challenges in the country, saying ''government's attention is apparently being taken from other existing health challenges including family planning, malaria and various cancer plaguing the society.

Obodo-Obunseli, a legal luminary observed that there were visible gaps in family budget lines and releases in the country, including Delta State, due to a sharp drop in federal provision particularly in 2019 which witnessed a "zero budget" for family planning or deliberate population control.

She recalled that Federal Government had in 2018 invested a total sum of N2.9 billion as counterpart fund for the programme, but it released a relatively meagre N300 million in 2019 for activities under the same programme, leaving a shortfall of at least 90 percent.

According to her, In 2018, the federal government matched up the donor’s funding with N2.4 billion and another N500 million was also given to improve family planning through contraceptive use intervention.

“In 2019, the federal government had zero budget for the programme but the sum of N300 million was released for contraceptives, this is about 90 percent reduction in funding of the programme in the country compared to that of 2018.

“There is a very huge gap in funding the programme in the country, this is the reason why there has been shortage of commodities among others at the Primary Healthcare facilities across the country during the period under review", she lamented.

''Nevertheless, although budgetary allocation to the family planning unit in Delta State, rose from N8.5 million in 2018 to N25 million in 2020, there were strong indications that the downward budget review forced by the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic will adversely affect family planning budget line releases'', She noted.

On her part, Dr. Bobola Agbonle, Principal Medical Officer, Delta State University Health Sciences, Asaba Campus, added that unless both government took decisive action, the impact of the lockdown would reflect on cases of unplanned pregnancies and population explosion.

Dr. Agbonle however expressed the need for people to embrace family planning services for both married and unmarried persons including adolescents, noting that such practice was better than the negatives from unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

Dr. Agbonle averred that, "We have been on the lockdown for upward of three months now since March, and come December, we are going to have explosion of babies. And, at the same time, we are also expecting explosion of abortions, because most women can decide to abort the unwanted pregnancies, which is equally a problem as many babies will die.

“With family planning, we can prevent challenges of malnutrition, sexually transmitted diseases, death by abortion, teenage pregnancies, among others; this is why we must continue to push for family planning'', she said.

Agbonle added that due to advocacy carried out by the media, the state facilities have early this month (June) received supply of consumables, just as she called for more push to put the governments on their toes to do the right thing to sustain the family planning programme.

By Anastacia Eluwa, Asaba Delta state