The Association of Nigerian Health Journalists (ANHEJ) and other stakeholders have called for more funding for family planning and free maternal health services by the country’s leaders.
Also, they called for access to contraception among Nigerians of reproductive age for quality population development.
Speaking at a one-day summit in Abuja, the ANHEJ president, Mr. Hassan Zaggi said globally, illnesses and deaths from poor reproductive health account for one-fifth of the global burden of disease, and nearly one-third for all women.
Science Nigeria reports that the summit is supported by the Partnership for Advocacy In Child and Family Health at Scale (PACFaH@scale), anchored by the Development Research and Projects Centre (DRPC).
At the event, themed “Re-echoing Voices for Family Planning Funding and need to make Maternal Health Services Free by incoming Political Leaders”, Zaggi explained that the country has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates of 545 per 100,000 live births, while quoting the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), 2008.
“Family planning is regarded as an essential component of reproductive health. It is key to safe motherhood, contributing to a 44 per cent reduction in maternal deaths.
“It, therefore, contributes enormously to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially the reduction of maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality,” he said.
The ANHEJ president hailed family planning as crucial if the targets of the Health-for-All Policy for the 21st century in the Africa region would be met.
He said that despite the escalating overpopulation leading to increased maternal deaths insecurity and poverty, the country was yet to accord the desired funding for a sustainable population.
“In a situation where the current proposed budget is less than N6000 per Nigerian, it is a very low investment for Nigeria,” he explained.
In his remarks, the director of programmes at the PACFaH@scale, Dr. Stanley Ukpai, stressed that the Family Planning blueprint would expire in 2023 and journalists would be right to write about the blueprint.
According to Ukpai, the goal of a 27 per cent contraceptive rate has not been achieved in the country and there remained the need for journalists to take note and write about it.
He said implementing the mid-term development plan would help in developing the health system of the country.
“As health journalists, there is a need to write about health system strengthening. This is very critical to national development,” he pointed out.
Ukpai posited that the adoption and inclusive implementation by the national and sub-national level governments of Nigeria’s Family Planning Blueprint (FP2030) commitment as well as other critical family planning documents equally form part of the solutions to the challenges facing the national family planning programme.
He wondered why the Family Planning Budget for 2021 amounted to N2.8 billion while there was none for 2022.
The director highlighted this as the main reason the country’s health indicators showed very high mortality rates among women and children.
“The health sector is still facing a lot of challenges. First, at the primary health care (PHC) level where millions of Nigerians reside, the country has over 30,000 PHC centres. Sadly, less than 5,000 are functional.
“Second, low budgeting allocation is evident over the years, hovering around five per cent [and] far below the Abuja Declaration of 15 per cent of the national budget.
“The non-release of the budget makes it difficult for advocates to raise their voices for more funding.
“All these factors hinder the country’s attainment of the UHC,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, hailed the summit as a laudable and timely event, given that the nation was witnessing a transition in governance.
Ehanire, who was represented by the deputy director of family planning logistics, FMOH, Pharm. Ugochukwu Alex, said health journalists have important roles to play in supporting the ongoing effort of government at positioning family planning as a major strategy for accelerating the country’s socio-economic development with adequate investments to reap appropriate measure of demographic dividend from the current youth bulge.
He encouraged the association to continue with its effort at keeping its members and the general public well-informed on issues around improving the health and overall well-being of Nigerians of reproductive age, especially women and girls.
Also, the minister called on the association and all other stakeholders to continue their collaboration with the ministry to enable the country to improve its indices in healthcare delivery.
Meanwhile, other speakers charged the media to go beyond event reporting and investigate the real issues bedeviling the country’s health system.
According to agency reports, they stressed that the media has so much power to change the narrative and set the agenda, especially as the election draws near.