Participants at a recent Reproductive Health webinar hosted by Pathfinder International, Nigeria to mark World Population Day, have lamented how outbreak of covid-19 hinders reproductive health universal protocols to safeguard wellbeing of consumers of family planning services in Nigeria.
The participants drawn from the media and civil society organisations noted that the pandemic has become a threat reversing some of the gains earlier achieved on reproductive health particularly in the provision of contraceptives.
Director Public health, Nasarawa state Ministry of Health Dr. Ibrahim Adamu in his presentation “RH/FP Situation in Nigeria and actions taken by the government to protect the Sexual and Reproductive Health and rights of women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic” noted that while the average maternal mortality rate across Nigeria is estimated at 545 deaths per every 100,000 livebirths, in Nassarawa State, it is an incredible 800 per every 100,000 livebirths.
The Health official pointed out that if the national contraceptive protocol is followed, “at least 25% of the deaths which is 200, could be averted if all women wishing to avoid pregnancy could use modern methods of contraception”.
According to Dr. Adamu, Nassarawa currently has a Contraceptive Prevalent Rate of 14.8 users out of 100 between the ages of 15-19years the age of child bearing in the state.
He said, the State also has a gap of unmet needs of about 23 percent and a demand for contraceptive standing at 38.5 percent.
Dauda lamented that like every other states in Nigeria, the period of covid-19 lockdown affected Nassarawa with heightened phobia among commodity users and Healthcare Workers.
“Users were reluctant to visit the Health Facilities to take up methods due to limited availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and Restriction of movements to lockdown which led to increase in sexual activities and offences.
He noted that the state government had to review its budget on health to accommodate addressing the pandemic and provision of reproductive health services.
Also speaking on the Family Planning Service Provision in Times of Covid-19 in Gombe State, Family Planning Coordinator, Rejoice Bala said the experience of the State was similar to that obtained in Nassarawa.
He said “during the lockdown there was in fact demand for commodities but these were in short supply due to out of stock and lack of access by clients even as the healthcare workers had no access to protective equipment.
Both experts advocated for prompt adjustment to Covid-19 reality while ensuring keeping to the laid down protocols, laws, policies as well as timely release of funds by government for the purchase of family planning commodity.
Chairman, Society for Media Advocacy on Health, Mrs. Chioma Umeha in her presentation: Media As Change Agent said the period of the lockdown was a new experience for members of the group .
“As a Reproductive Health/Family Planning advocates, we built on our previous successes, contacts through the use of IT – social media tools available – Phone calls, virtual meetings, zoom, etc. Webinars are providing more opportunities”, said Umeha.
She urged members to continue to push the agenda on FP advocacy saying, “The media is a strong agent and a very strong advocacy platform that can hold government accountable and push them to do the needful”
She appealed that as media advocates, members should try to allay concerns about side effects of contraceptive methods, increase self-efficacy or confidence to take action, and change perceived norms that discourage family planning and contraceptive use.
In her opening remark, Country Director Pathfinder International, Dr Amina Aminu Dorayi described the conversation asa way to lend a voice to solving the challenge posed by the global pandemic which threatens the gains recorded in reproductive health services which adds to the wellbeing of wome, girls and familes in the world.
She noted that since majority of Nigerian population comprise of young people which far surpases the productive age group it is pertinent that issues that directly relates to this group, sexual reproductive health and rights be of utmost importance to all stakeholders.
Dr Dorayi noted that the recent lockdown arising from covid-19, has thrown up challenges around some population issues such as street children in the North, heightened security issues, rape and Gender Based Violence as well as the existing weak social structure and weak health system, the country was unable to asborb the various shocks.
She warned thet the theme of 2020 on World Population Day “Putting the Brakes on covid-19 How to safeguard the health and rights of women and girls Now” is a call to strongly safeguard the rights of women and girls their needs and vulnerabilities in order to avert future consequences caused by the current pandemic.