How COVID-19 Threatens Population Programmes In Nigeria

The emergence of covid-19 pandemic unexpectedly threatens population programmes of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and may cause setbacks in achieving the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Assistant Representative and Head of Lagos Liaison, Dr. Omolaso Omosehin said the pandemic affects plans of the UN Agency particularly the supply chain of contraceptives to marginalized people saying, “the pandemic has hit the marginalized communities very hard deepening inequalities and threatening to setback our efforts to leave no one behind in our population programmes”.

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Omosehin disclosed this in his presentation on the theme of the 2020 World Population Day (WPD) titled: “Putting the brakes on COVID-19: How to safeguard the health and rights of women and girls now” during a Webinar organised by the Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria (NRHJN).

According to the UNFPA official, “Women and girls are disproportionately affected though but nonetheless, the effects are so obvious for all to see.

Participants at the webinar

“For instance, a lot of health workers and social workers are women and so are exposed to greater risks while gender based violence, rape assaults are so much on the increase”.

He noted that from a recent study outcome by the UN body, “if the (global) lockdown continues for more than six months, with disruptions to major health services, then 47m women in low and medium income countries may not be able to access modern contraceptives resulting in 7m unintended pregnancies; 13m additional gender based violence would also be expected.

Continuing, Omosehin said, “The disruptions in UNFPA population programmes on ground would result in 2m cases of Female Genital Mutilations and 13m marriages within the next two years that could have been averted.”

According to him the study outcome showed, nearly 60% of women worldwide work in the informal economy and have greater risk of falling into poverty.

Paprticipants at the webinar

He lamented that if things should continue the way they are presently, the hope of achieving the population programmes of the sustainable development goals by 2030, would be compromised by Covid-19.

On choice of the theme for the UNFPA’s world Population Day, Omosehin said, “it is an attempt to ensure the UN body maintains the focus on women and girls especially, on reproductive health services- to ensure services to space pregnancies, to stop for those who want to stop, services to delay for those who want to delay are maintained”.

Also at the webinar, the chair, Medical Sub-Committee FCT Ministerial Expert Committee on Covid-19 and chair, Board of Trustees of the Network Dr. Ejike Oji, spoke on how the covid-19 pandemic has affected healthcare delivery in the country as a whole since the index case was discovered in February.

According to Oji, covid-19 pandemic has affected the country’s healthcare delivery with its good, bad and ugly effects.

He pointed out that lots of attention have now been focused on healthcare delivery with federal government setting N100bn aside with the Central Bank to support private care initiative in the healthcare sector and another N500bn to support the equipment of the healthcare sector.

Oji however submitted “with the lockdown, a lot of women will carry unintended pregnancies especially in marriages because studies have shown 38% of unwanted pregnancies in marriages are unintended and often end up with terminations that are not safe which might have untoward consequences”.

He pointed out that adolescents are equally not spared as the country is evidently already struggling with adolescent health and is grappling to ensure services get to the adolescent girls with population programmes.

He urged population advocates to be ready to move to service delivery sites in the to provide post abortion care and services on point as the evidence of unsafe termination of unintended and unwanted pregnancies begin to manifest.

The Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria (NRHJN) is a registered Non-Governmental, Non-partisan, Not-for-profit group of Nigerian journalists founded in 2010 to advocate for Reproductive Health and Rights issues and policies in Nigeria and globally.

It’s mission is to set agenda for the creation, promotion and enhancement of developmental health journalism

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