Nigeria’s population is predicted to hit 206 million by 2020, and 264 million by 2030, and crossing the 300 million threshold around 2036.With current economic postulations, this is not a cheering narrative for the country. And that means that the country has a lot to do to mitigate and manage her population explosion. ROLAND OGBONNAYAwrites on efforts at curbing unintended pregnancies as one step to curtailing population spasm
Mr. Timothy Emereuwa and Abubakar Adamu are from different geographical location in Nigeria. While Mr. Emereuwa is from the southeast, Alhaji Adamu is from the northwest of the country and that is where the differences end. Both however have similar story to tell. They are both from polygamous families, which affected their growing up, education, social and economic progression. Though their parents could only see them through primary school only because of the acute poverty and lack of means to see them to college, both Emereuwa and Adamu are today university graduates basically through their own personal efforts.
Their arguments today is that if their parents had planned and had small size families, they could have lived quality life, had the best upbringing, which in turn would have improved the health of their parents, as well as their personal status in life.
However, Emereuwa and Adamu are not alone in this predicament, many Nigeria homes and families are going through these deprivations because they had more children they could care for. Some of these children remain unproductive, while others end on the streets as urchins and criminals. Experts have said that some of these children could have also been products of unplanned or unintended pregnancies due to lack of or none use of family planning methods, rape or incest. The danger is that trend has continued to grow despite information in the public domain on the unpalatable consequences and its attendant result in over population.
Both health and economic experts believe that unintended pregnancies are those that are mistimed, unplanned or unwanted at the time of conception, and sexual activities without the use of contraception through choice or coercion are the predominant cause of unintended pregnancies. Worldwide, 38 per cent of pregnancies (about 80 million pregnancies) were unintended in 1999. Experts further agreed that while unintended pregnancies are the main reason for induced abortions, not all unplanned pregnancies result in abortions or unwanted children, explaining that this condition has been linked to numerous maternal and child health problems.
As a result of the inherent dangers of unplanned pregnancies, some African countries and few states that have legalised or liberalised medical and safe abortions and easier access to abortions have lowered rates of child neglect and better living conditions for children overall.
Unintended pregnancy is seen as a worldwide problem that affects women, their families, and society. In many developing countries though, poverty, malnutrition, and lack of sanitation and education contribute to serious health consequences for women and their families experiencing an unintended pregnancy. Regardless of the cause, unintended pregnancy and its negative consequences can be prevented by access to contraceptive services including emergency contraception, safe, medical and legal abortion services, and a society that allows women to determine their own reproductive choices, experts further said.
Addressing unintended pregnancy and its substantial human and dollar costs should be a priority in every country, a public health professional told The Lead in Lagos recently. The availability of reliable contraception for all, regardless of age or ability to pay, is an essential first step. Women and adolescents require access to age-appropriate and culturally sensitive reproductive health care services, including emergency contraception. Access to safe, legal abortion services is necessary to impact the staggering maternal mortality rates and population explosion worldwide.
In Nigeria for example, it is essential to identify those at risk for unintended pregnancy, provide the services they require, and remain diligent to ensure that those women and their families have safe options to consider when faced with an unintended pregnancy. In 1920, Magaret Sanger said, “No woman can call herself free who does not control her own body.” Although great strides have been made to improve the health and status of women since Ms. Sanger spoke those words, there remains much work to be done.
In a recent Safe Engage training programme for journalists in Lagos, Nigeria, under the auspices of the PRB and Network of Reproductive Health Journalists in Nigeria (NRHJN) some of these issues and challenges were highlighted. One of the resource persons, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, executive director of WARDC said with the worsening economy and the early sexual debut in Nigeria, more adolescents get pregnant and resort to unsafe termination of such pregnancies. This brings to fore, the need for people to know that unintended pregnancy is a public health issue, she said.
Accepted that unintended pregnancies (UPs) are a global problem with substantial negative consequences to families and society, in developing country settings, women who seek to abort UPs face the risk of serious long-term health effects, including infertility and maternal death because of strict abortion laws in place. Many are also unaware of the availability of contraception methods available, which include use of birth control pills, a condom, intrauterine device (IUD, IUC, IUS), contraceptive implant (implanon/nexplanon), hormonal patch, hormonal ring, cervical cap, diaphragms, spermicides, or sterilisation.
People choose to use contraceptive method based on method efficacy, medical considerations, side effects, convenience, availability, friends’ or family members’ experience, religious views, and many other factors. In some part of Nigeria, cultures limit or discourage access to birth control because they consider it to be morally or politically undesirable.
The experts at the Safe Engagement training programme further agreed that the access to contraceptive services (including emergency contraception), safe and legal abortion services, and societal norms that empower women to make their own reproductive choices are prerequisites to solving this problem. An essential first step is universal access to safe, reliable contraception regardless of age or ability to pay. Those at risk for Unintended Pregnancies, especially adolescents, should be identified and targeted for special intervention.
Population growth remains rapid in the poorest countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, despite substantial AIDS and maternal mortality. Voluntary family-planning programmes reduce unplanned pregnancies by providing access to and information about contraception and by reducing socio-economic obstacles to use. With sufficient political will and resources, well-run voluntary programmes have been shown to bring about sustained declines in fertility and population growth across much of Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America, simply by permitting people to realize their individual reproductive goals. Such programs represent a cost-effective approach to relieving population pressures, stimulating economic development, improving health, and enhancing human freedom. These can be replicated in Nigeria.
Aspopulation is a dynamic field, there have been significant changes in birth rates and the population trajectories of countries and continents in recent years. Global population is still rising by more than 80 million a year, however, and is most likely to continue rising for the rest of this century unless action is taken.
Every two years, the United Nations makes projections for future population growth. In 2017, its main, “median” projection was a population of 9.7bn in 2050 and 10.9bn in 2100. Because many factors affect population growth, it makes a range of projections depending on different assumptions. Within its 95% certainty range, the difference in population in 2100 from the highest to lowest projection is almost 4bn people – more than half the population we have today. This should be a concern to Nigeria.
Populations are also affected by death rates, net migration and the proportion of people of childbearing age, however. That is why populations of countries with significant falls in fertility (such as Nigeria) continue to grow. In particular, where birth rates have recently been high, when the babies born in that period reach childbearing age they increase the number of families, even though the size of their families is smaller than in the previous generation. This is called ‘demographic momentum’ and means that the impact of changes in fertility normally takes decades to be reflected in population.
Many countries with less than replacement rate are also growing, usually as a result of net migration. Immigration also increases numbers of people directly but also by increasing the birth rate. This is usually because migrants tend to be younger people of working age so more likely to have children than the existing population, and because in some cases, they come from countries or cultures with traditionally higher fertility rates and family sizes.
Fertility rates tend to decrease when countries become more affluent, when women are more empowered, when children stay in education for longer and when, crucially, people are able and choose to use good, modern family planning.
Unfortunately, more than 200 million women currently have an unmet need for family planning – meaning they do not want to get pregnant but are not using modern contraceptive methods. Research published by the Guttmacher Institute in 2016 shows that this is sometimes because they are unable to access family planning but more commonly because of concerns about side effects or other health impacts, a perception (often mistaken) that they do not need them and, in nearly a quarter of cases, because the women or those close to them opposed contraceptive use. Contraception provision must be accompanied by appropriate education and support to be effective.
Religious, cultural and social influences all play a part, as do economic and political factors. Where people cannot rely on the state to support them, they tend to have larger families to ensure they have children who can support them. Where child mortality is high, people also seek to have more children. The “value” of women and girls may be judged by the number of children they have (not just in places where women are not empowered) and traditions valuing larger families are often internalised.
Nigeria’s population is predicted to hit 206 million by 2020, and 264 million by 2030 – crossing the 300 million threshold around 2036. However, investigation showed that the Nigerian government has been doing its best to help curb a rapid growth in population. They have offered free contraception over the past 10 years or so and they have even started taking steps to discourage people who are looking to have large families. The government is banking on smaller families as a way to secure financial salvation in the future. They are looking toward territories like Thailand – another area with large population growth issues – as a model for their current strategy.
Until the point where some success is found in these efforts, the current projections for 2050 are over 390 million total residents and very scary.