UNFPA, family planning, reproductive health and the rights of women

July 4th, 2018

Few days ago, the Federal Ministry of Health in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) launched two key reproductive health documents/tools. HASSAN ZAGGI writes on the importance of the documents considering the efforts of UNFPA to reduce maternal deaths.

For the umpteenth time, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has demonstrated its consisted support for the productive health and rights of women in Nigeria.

Over the years, UNPFA has been partnering with the federal government of Nigeria to ensure that the reproductive health rights of women gets a boost.

The UN agency has been consisted in supporting the federal government in the provision of family planning commodities and the implementation of policies that will reduce to the barest minimum maternal and infant mortality in the country and improve the lives of women.

It has always insisted that family planning is the best way to go, hence should be seen as a right and women must be allowed to make their choices either to use it or not and the time they so desired.

The efforts of the UNFPA is better appreciated when one considers that in poor countries of the world, including Nigeria, about half of all deaths in women of child-bearing age are caused by problems of pregnancy and childbirth. Findings have proved over the years that family planning prevents these pregnancies related deaths.

Effective uptake of family planning can prevent pregnancies that are too soon, too late, too close and too many. This, ultimately, will prevent unnecessary loss of precious lives of women.

The efforts of the UNFPA was further demonstrated few days ago when it launches two key reproductive health documents/tools in partnership with the Federal Government of Nigeria and other partners in Abuja.

The two key documents include the National Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate (DMPA-SC) Accelerated Introduction and Scale-Up Plan 2018 – 2022 and Global Family Planning Visibility and Analytical Network/National Logistics Management Information System (NAVISION).

The DMPA-SC Accelerated Introduction and Scale-Up Plan 2018 – 2022, was developed to ensure that contraceptive information and services reach women and adolescent girls who may want to avoid pregnancy, space or limit child birth.

It provides the modalities for coordinating the activities of various stakeholders involved in introducing and scaling up DMPA-SC through a total market approach. It is intended to ensure that both public and private sectors are maximizing their comparative advantages and are contributing to sustainable access to DMPA-SC.

On the other hand, the key objectives of the DMPA-SC introduction and Scale up plan include to deploy DMPA-SC throughout identified public, private and community service delivery channels so as to maximize uptake; roll out facility and community-initiated self-injection service delivery in order to ensure DMPA-SC reaches new users and expands access to women in hard to reach areas and to scale up DMPA-SC services by integrating it into the national FP and health management systems thereby ensuring sustainability.

The second document- the Global Family Planning Visibility and Analytical Network/National Logistics Management Information System (Navision), will serve as a shared platform to capture and use supply chain data from multiple sources and organizations.

It will provide enhanced visibility for decision making. The long-term vision therefore is to have a platform that will promote more timely and cost-effective delivery of Family Planning (FP) commodities and other health commodities in such a way that more women are reached with the right products where they live and work.

Navision, findings show, will aid better coordination and improvement in limited healthcare resources allocation.

Speaking while responding to questions from journalists at the launch of the documents, the National Programme Analyst Family Planning and Maternal Health of the UNFPA, Dr. Titi Duro Aina, insisted that UNFPA will continue to support fully the provision of family planning commodities and the improvement of the reproductive health and rights of women in all parts of Nigeria.

Explaining the relevance of the documents, Dr. Titi said: “The DMPA-SC is simply a unique contraceptive that has a very short needle that women can even self inject if they so wish and that will further increase access to women because if they can self inject, then they don’t have to go to the health facility continuously and at all times to get contraceptives, so that improves a lot of the access and allow women in hard-to-reach areas to get their contraceptives. That is why it is very exciting and innovative.

“On the other hand, the Global Family Planning Visibility and Analytical Network/National Logistics Management Information System (NAVISION) is made to see into the supply chain of the country, particularly family planning.

‘It will say exactly where commodities are, where they are not, improve the supply chain, prevent the stock out so that we are sure that women are able to get family planning as at when due and that excess is not somewhere else where it is not needed.”

These policy documents, according to her, are aimed at making family planning commodities available, hence, removing the barrier to women accessing family planning services.

With this development, she noted: “women in Nigeria have no excuse to getting family planning commodities.”

In his presentation at the event, the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, advocated for support for women to ensure they make choices in their quest for family planning needs.

Speaking further, Adewole, regretted that despite the progress recorded in the delivery and uptake of family planning services and commodities in the country, “I must caution that more work must be done to achieve our objective of ensuring that women are supported to make choices in their quest to meet their family planning needs.”

Adewole, however, revealed that Nigeria’s modern Contraceptive Prevalence Rate currently stands at 16.0%, which he said was low.

He further lamented that unmet needs for family planning is high, stressing, “it is estimated that 12.7% of women who wish to delay or prevent a pregnancy are not using any form of family planning method.

“These are clear indications that the country is yet to fully harness the benefits of family planning, despite the scale-up in interventions.”

Speaking on the efforts of the federal government to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality, Adewole said: “We are promoting a number of initiatives. Some of them include training of health workers on Life Saving Skills and family planning technology; scale up of Antenatal and Postnatal Visits, and Skilled Birth Attendance; promotion of Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (EmONC) services to mention but a few.”

He reiterated that the government has also developed, disseminated and implementing approved documents and tools on Family Planning/Reproductive Health programming.

These tools, he said, will promote adherence to standards in the provision of information, services and commodities in line with subsisting best practices, insisting that the efforts must be sustained.

The Minister therefore appealed to stakeholders to continue to support the government with technical assistance, material and financial resources.

He, therefore, applauded stakeholders including FP2020 Initiative, USAID, UNFPA and many others for their contribution in the efforts to reduce maternal deaths in the country.

The launch was well attended by stakeholders in the health sector including the members of the Society of Gyneacologist of Nigeria (SOGON).

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