Home Feature A Low Hanging Fruit for Achieving the SDGs in Northwest Nigeria

A Low Hanging Fruit for Achieving the SDGs in Northwest Nigeria

by Isiyaku Ahmed

Isiyaku Ahmed, Kano

Currently, child spacing is recognized in every development agenda as one of the cost-effective and pivotal health interventions.  It is one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent maternal, infant, and child mortality by reducing the number of unintended pregnancies, the number of abortions, and the proportion of births at high risk.

It has been estimated that meeting women’s need for modern contraceptives would prevent about one-quarter to one-third of maternal deaths, saving 140,000 to 150,000 lives per year in the region.

Studies have revealed that investments in child spacing has economic and health benefits from increased financial savings, improved maternal child health, reduce the spread of HIV and other sexual diseases, saving lives and accelerate socioeconomic development in the societies where it is adequately financed and effectively practiced.

For example – the Islamic Republic of Iran had a high national mortality rate after the revolution.  Research evidence across the globe reveals that one of the most cost-effective method of reducing that mortality they found was child spacing. And they sold the concept to their citizens, today, they are reaping the good results of child spacing.

In Northwest Nigeria, there are no data to adequately assess the relationship between child spacing and health or economic benefits, largely because the Nigeria National Policy on Population for Sustainable Development is yet to be judiciously implemented in most states.

The Integrated Family Planning and Maternal Child Health (FPMCH) Program in some states indicates that households in communities where child spacing is practiced effectively, experience health and economic benefits in addition to larger incomes, greater accumulation of wealth, and higher levels of education over time than households who lived in similar communities but received only routine health services.

Child spacing does more than save lives; it also saves money. For every dollar invested in reproductive health services, $2.20 is saved in pregnancy-related health-care costs according to the Guttmacher Institute. Moreover, the longer a woman waits to have children, the longer she can participate in the paid labor force, thereby boosting the economic health and prosperity of her community.

At a recent media briefing on increasing public financing for childbirth spacing amidst covid-19, hosted by the WISH Program, the Sustainability Lead for WISH, Dr. Michael Olawuyi highlights the importance of continuity of essential family planning services amidst Covid-19.

Dr. Olawuyi says, “family planning has ability to yield demographic dividends, reduce maternal mortality and save costs to the health system. This can accelerate the attainment of some of the SDGs. Investment in Childbirth spacing is therefore a wise investment”.

Hajia Halima Ben Umar, a development practitioner says another benefit of child spacing is parents will be financially empowered to give proper care to a child in terms of feeding, clothing, education with proper moral upbringing and breed responsible children rather than having too many within short period and not being able to cater to their needs resulting to school drop outs and immoralities  in the society.

She says state governments are funding child spacing with support from development partners to promote family planning services in place. The Performance Improvement Assessment in some states reveals some gaps in these efforts, for instance, there are no family planning unit in most Local Government Area (LGA).

Ben Umar says government is doing well in providing commodities and consumables to health facilities, but there are gaps in proving family planning service; one of such gaps is prioritizing contraceptives distribution and reproductive rights especially for women; for instance, women go to service delivery points for implants, IUDs and pills not female condoms but some of these are not available. That, she says is a good reason for the low patronage.

She says government needs to increase funds for family planning because of its health and economic benefits and make sure that the commodities that women are using and want to use or ask for in the facilities are available at any point in time.

Dr. Mukhtar Gadanya, an Associate Professor at Bayero University and Consultant Public Health Physician at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano says child spacing commodities are free but substantially there should be more programs in place to ensure consumables are free and affordable.

He says having a budget line for family planning with funds allocated to meet the financial requirements captured in the Costed Implementation Plan and with timely release of funds and increased sensitization on the benefits of child spacing will help accelerate economic growth in the region.

Hajia Saude Umar Diso is a petty trade and mother of three children, two girls and one boy. She says child spacing helped her a great deal, it has given her financial independence and improved her economic well-being; “my life and status has improved in the community”.

She says one major challenge she faced was her frequent visits to facilities before getting health workers to attend to her and the limited options of methods to choose from. She also complained that health facilities are far from her house, hence she incurs huge transportation cost to access Childbirth Spacing services

The benefits of financing child spacing is the cross-cutting role it plays in achieving 7 (seven) of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); no poverty, end hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, economic growth and reduced inequality.

A low hanging fruit for achieving some SDGs is child spacing. State governments that have recognized this are allocating funds but challenges that must be bridged are poor financing, untimely release of funds and a lack of budget line for child spacing.

Health experts say government should reduce reliance on development partners for financing childbirth and should prioritize domestic financing through adequate budget allocation, prompt release and inclusion in existing state health insurance schemes and other health financing programs. There is also a need to remove systemic constraints at facilities and make different contraceptives available to give clients multiple options of choice for using appropriate child spacing method that suits them.  

The increased allocation for child spacing budget line today will reduce health-care costs and improve the socio-economic well-being of the North west region in future.

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