Despite the huge advocacy on the importance of female condoms in relation to the curbing the spread of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and also its use as family planning tool, an expert, Dr. Sekina Bello, has regretted that its acceptability is low.
Dr. Sekina, an official of the Pathfinder International, made the observation at a 1-day meeting with key development partners and service providers, in Abuja.
The meeting was aimed at adopting and developing a plan of action for the nationwide roll-out of the tools to promote the use of female condoms in the country.
Responding to questions from journalists, Dr. Sekina said that apart from serving as one of the methods for family planning, female condoms helps to protect unborn babies from infections.
She lamented that the acceptability of the female condom is just one percent in the southern part of the country and almost zero per cent in the north.
She expressed optimism that with the needed education and awareness, the commodity will be accepted in all parts of the country.
“Generally, the acceptability of female condom is very low both in the north and in the south. The national demographic survey conducted in 2013 stated that less than one percent of women in Nigeria use the female condom.
“So I can boldly say that in the north, it is almost non-existent because the commodities are available but whenever you go for them, they are either in the drawer or in the store somewhere. Most of the healthcare providers do not know how to use it and so they cannot even convince anybody to use it,” she said.
Dr Sekina further explained that: “The problem in the north is that husbands do not generally come with their wives to seek healthcare and in the trainings we do, the healthcare providers are involved even though some of them are community-based, but majority of the women come on their own to seek for Family Planning services. They don’t bring their husbands along.”
Responding to a question on the availability of the commodity, she said: “The female condom is available in all public facilities free of charge. What I can say about cost is that it might not be available in all pharmacies but can be found in any public facility and it is free of charge in any public facility you walk into in this country. But because they don’t know it, they don’t ask for it.
“The healthcare providers are also not well educated about it and so they shy away from bringing it out and so lack the will power to encourage their clients to use it as availability of commodity is made on requisition made by healthcare providers.”
“There is so much misconception surrounding the use of the female condom. If one woman uses it and something happens, instead of her to go back and seek clarification, she just spreads with word of mouth that its use is painful or uncomfortable.”
Speaking earlier, the Project Coordinator of the Female Condone Advocacy Project of the Association for Family and Reproductive Health (AFRH), Ekene Ngwu, said that the project was to review and evaluate the female condom counseling tools such as posters, leaflets and fliers to be used by healthcare providers in counseling people.
He noted that AFRH have been involved in the promotion of reproductive and family health information and services around Nigeria since the past 25 years.