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Experts seek better funding, private sector support for FP services

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Experts in the sexual and reproductive health industry have urged improved budgetary allocation for family planning services (FPS) in the country, lamenting that what is being received presently is wholly inadequate to effectively cater for Nigeria’s exploding population.

At a webinar held in Lagos, managing director, Nigeria Health Watch, Vivianne Ihekweazu said the country’s population is set to hit 400 million by 2050, becoming the third most populous country in the world, overtaking the United States. “This is an astronomical increase given our weak GDP compared to countries like South Africa with a stronger GDP and lesser population. Our population is growing faster than the economy and we can’t meet with rising demands. Our population is young and the working age population has to increase whilst fertility rates reduce.” She said all hope isn’t lost still as the country can still turn the young demographic into a plus with better education, improved healthcare and growing the economy.

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Speaking on the theme of the webinar, Domestic Resource Mobilization for Sustained Family Planning Services In Nigeria, keynote speaker, Prof Emmanuel Adedolapo Lufadeju lamented that Nigeria’s growth rate of 2.6 percent is double the world average of 1.2 percent. He added that this is made worse by poor contraceptives use, which stands at a miserable 15 percent, is due to several reasons including cultural, religious and social beliefs. “Contraceptive use must be prioritized; we need to reach at least 27 percent usage by 2025. We must look for resources domestically to fund FP. The Federal Government funds FP in two ways: through counterpart funding and budgetary allocations and unfortunately, the latter has been reduced by 40 percent while the former recorded zero last year due to the pandemic.”

“We must stop relying on foreign donations and look inwards; improve access beyond facilities because contraceptives don’t reach many people who need it the most, this way.” He urged exploring available resources as well as advocating more funds be dedicated to FP, He also called for Private Sector Participation (PSP) in providing funds for FP by either adopting Primary Health Care Centres (PHCs) or providing contraceptives to be shared to people that cant afford it or hard to reach communities.

The first panel which had on it Fatima Muhammad, Toyin Chukwudozie and Effiom Nyong Effiom, talked about the current landscape for FP funding and the impact of COVID-19 on access to FPs. Chukwudozie regretted that reduced funding towards FPS has a drastic impact on the country’s young population leading to unplanned pregnancies which disrupt the lives of girls and women and causes greater economic hardship. “Reduced funding is directly linked to the outcome of women’s lives if they can’t access FPS and linked to their sexual and reproductive health because they are at greater risk of STIs and AIDS. Behind these stats are real lives of young girls and women and when these funds are re-allocated to other sectors, real people suffer for it. It can literally decide the life or death of a young girl in one community somewhere.”

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She added that many young people don’t have proper FP information due to many myths and mistruths being circulated. “We need to fill this gap. We recently interacted with some 19/20 year old girls at an outreach and some of them have never heard of FP. We need new ways to engage young people and drive this message home.

On his part, Effiom stated that due to the pandemic, many donor countries like the United Kingdom have stopped or greatly reduced giving aid towards FPS, urging the nation to look inwards and apply homegrown solutions to this problem.

Speaking on the consequences of reduction of FP funding, domestic mobilization of resources and recommendations to improve domestic resource mobilization on the second panel, Dr Olumide Okunola regretted that the government hasn’t kept up to its end of the funding, lamenting that the nation’s public revenue to GDP ratio is around the lowest in the world and consequently, the country’s health budget is also one of the lowest in the world as well. “Fiscal revenues are low and declining over time, we need to earmark more money for the health sector.”

Panelists, Dr Ejike Oji and UNFPA country representative, Ulla Mueller decried the worsening health industry and poor community engagement towards FP. Oji urged that FP be made more of an economic issue and governments at all levels be encouraged to release funds for FPS. “Until we make FP a legislative agenda, we might not make headway. PSPs can be given tax breaks if they support FPS to encourage more companies to support. We also need to advocate for more than the one percent presently being allocated to FPS in Nigeria, it is abysmal,” he said.

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