COVID-19: Possible Population Explosion Worries Family Planning Experts, Encourage introducing FP methods to adolescents

Friday, June 26, 2020

The need for intensified efforts at creating greater awareness on the numerous benefits of healthy family planning practice as a veritable measure against undesirable population in Nigeria has been stressed.

The urgency for all hands to be on deck in curtailing uncontrolled fertility levels or birthrate vis-a-vis increased unsafe abortion, maternal and neonatal deaths has been underscored by the outbreak of the COVID-19, the reproductive health experts observed.

Speaking at a media roundtable in Asaba at the weekend, with the theme, "Family Planning Budget Line Release: The Great Imperative in Delta State", the family planning Advocacy Core Group Chairperson in Delta State, Mrs Rachael Obodo-Obunseli, noted that fears have been widely expressed by experts as well as citizens that the current general movement restrictions and confinement of people to their homes could lead to increased pregnancies and births in the country.

While urging authorities at the federal and state levels to scaleup efforts to arrest unmanageable population growth in the country through increased annual health budgetary provision backed by family planning allocation releases, Obodo-Obunseli noted that recent widespread complaints about scarcity of family planning consumables has made such scaling up process inevitable.

Obodo-Obunseli, who is a lawyer, further said 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 noted that while the Federal Government had in 2018 invested a total sum of N2.9 billion as counterpart fund for the programme, it released a relatively meagre N300 million in 2019 for activities under the same programme, leaving a shortfall of at least 90 percent.

She further warned that distraction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could precipitate serious health challenges in the country as government attention was apparently being taken from other existing health challenges including family planning, malaria and various cancer plaguing the society.

Obodo-Obunseli said, "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".

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.

Also speaking, Dr Bobola Agbonle, Principal Medical Officer, Delta State University Health Services, Asaba Campus, said urged government to take decisive action to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 movement restrictions and negative impact of family bonding regarding undesired pregnancies and resultant population explosion.

She also harped on the need for people to realistically embrace family planning services for unmarried persons including adolescents, noting that such practice was better than the negatives from unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

Dr Agbonle observed, "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.

By Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba