Funding Gaps, Patriarchy Hinder Family Planning in Nigeria

In 2020, Aisha Ali and her husband decided she would take a birth control injection after having nine children.

Ali said the decision was due to financial constraints.

She told VOA that she is “a retailer and my husband is a biker. We want the best for our children, but don’t make enough money.”

But the contraceptive that Ali was given suppresses ovulation for only a few years.

Many Nigerian women like Ali, especially those in rural areas, exceed the national birth rate of about five children per woman.

Evelyn Isienyi had eight children before her husband passed away in 2018. Now she says she struggles to take care of them.

“Even if my husband was alive,” Isienyi said, “I wouldn’t want to have more children because of the hardship. Things are very difficult for me.”

United Nations Population Fund [UNFPA] pointed to low funding for the procurement of family planning consumables, cultural bias and so-called “male dominance” as major factors influencing the adoption of family planning measures here.

This is the reason why the UN has expressed concern that population growth, especially in Africa, is not sustainable.

Earlier this month, UN officials marked the world population milestone of 8 billion, citing the population growth as a result of improvements in medicine and public health that have led to reduced death rates.

According to Erika Goldson, the deputy country representative for Nigeria at the UNFPA, “There is great progress that is happening, but one of the things that we worry about at the UN is that this progress is not being received evenly. There are some citizens. [who are] denied access to basic healthcare, basic education – their whole overall quality of life is negatively affected.”

Eight countries worldwide are expected to account for more than half of global population growth over the next three decades. Five of them are in Africa, including Nigeria.

Nigeria already has the seventh largest population in the world, and 95 million of its people live below $2.15 a day, according to World Bank data for 2022.

In February this year, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari launched a national population policy to control high fertility rates and improve access to modern family planning tools.

To help, the UN and Nigerian officials are educating women on family planning in rural areas. But Goldson says Nigeria needs to budget more money for family planning to achieve more tangible goals.

“As of this year,” Goldson explained, “we had a 25 million gap [dollars], and it was dealing with a lot of economic downturn due to the COVID-19. We also have the issue around the Ukraine war, and that has affected donor contributions. A lot of the issues around family planning, especially procurement, are very donor driven, which is very risky for Nigeria.”

Health officials say Nigeria needs to invest $35 million each year to address gaps in family planning, but only earmarked $50,000 for it in next year’s national budget.

Civil society groups are calling on authorities to increase the allocation before the budget is approved by the national assembly in December.

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