Rekindling Nigerian Women’s Hope for Healthy Lives Amid COVID-19
The ultimate goal of family planning is threatened due to the COVID-19 pandemic even as women and girls continue to suffer the worst impact of the disease.
A United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report in 115 low- and middle-income countries found that women faced an average disruption of family planning services of 3.6 months during the year elapsed.
As a result, more than 12 million women have had difficulty accessing family planning services due to the pandemic, resulting in 1.4 million unintended pregnancies.
Likewise, a new report has found that funding gaps from international donors will leave an additional 6.5 million people without access to contraceptive methods and could lead to two million unsafe abortions and 23,500 maternal deaths.
Nigeria, like many other countries, has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. While efforts have been devoted to reducing the disease, a major concern has been its potential effects on the delivery and use of reproductive health services in the country.
A study titled: “Effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the provision of sexual and reproductive health services in primary health facilities in Nigeria: A cross-sectional study” confirmed this situation.
The study showed that before the pandemic, about 97% of primary health care centers (PHC) offered reproductive, maternal and child health (RMCAH) services.
With the exception of the prenatal period, the study found that there had been a significant reduction in the use of family planning services by clients during the lockdown due to the pandemic.
Difficulties reported during the lockdown include the stockout of contraceptives, depriving many women and girls in Nigeria from leading healthy lives, making their own informed decisions about contraceptive use, and whether and when to use them. ‘have children.
Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has truly exposed the weakness of the Nigerian health system and disrupted sexual and reproductive health services.
The Director of the Department of Family Health of the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Salma Anas-Kolo, described the COVID-19 pandemic as an impact that Nigeria should learn from to come up with innovative approaches to close the gaps funding for sexual and reproductive health services in the country.
Anas-Kolo admitted: “What we have realized is that the COVID-19 pandemic has really exposed the weakness of the Nigerian health system and disrupted sexual and reproductive health services. “
Real reports show that the modest progress made in sexual and reproductive health services in the country is being challenged by the high payment of out-of-pocket expenses for the services. This is accompanied by a lack of regular capacity building for quality service delivery among many health workers at the primary health care center (PHC) level.
Unmistakably, the use of family planning is still low in Nigeria. The country still has a long way to go.
In addition, the country’s policies must be gender sensitive in the post-COVID-19 pandemic era.
Nigeria must urgently build health systems at all levels in times of emergency, also linking them to other programs such as the nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene program (WASH ), and even education.
Indeed, there is an urgent need for the country to rekindle the hope of women and girls by addressing their many reproductive health challenges to ensure that they can lead healthy lives.
Hence the reasons why other stakeholders must intervene to help the government improve the availability and access to sexual and reproductive health services in the country.
According to the National Director of Pathfinder International Nigeria, Dr Amina Aminu, the government cannot do it alone, the main reason why her organization is at the forefront of advocating for reproductive health issues in Nigeria, especially at the height of the pandemic.
Focused on the well-being of women of childbearing age, Aminu said the international organization has taken care to overcome the huge cultural and traditional barriers, among others, posed to access to family planning commodities to ensure that each woman has the opportunity to choose when and how many children she wants to have.
“The reproductive health system has evolved dramatically from a system largely blind to the unique health needs of women to one that recognizes that in order for individuals to lead productive lives, especially women, the standards of healthy the highest levels and in particular sexual and reproductive health must be guaranteed. .
“Pathfinder is driven by the belief that all people, regardless of where they live, have the right to decide if and when to have children, to exist free from fear and stigma, and to experience the life of their choice, ”she added.
There is no doubt that these commitments made by the Nigerian government and Pathfinder International go in the right direction to ensure that women and girls in Nigeria have the freedom and ability to lead healthy lives, but more commitments are needed. welcome, if the country is to achieve its family goal. Planning objectives.