UNDP warns: Nigeria may have 700,000 unwanted pregnancies in 2023
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has highlighted the potential rise in unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions due to the challenges faced in funding family planning initiatives within the country. This revelation was made during the commemoration of World Population Day 2023, organized by the National Population Commission in Abuja.Dr. Adeela Khan, Technical Specialist in Maternal and Reproductive Health at the UNDP, expressed her concerns during a panel discussion titled “Dialogue on financing and investment in family planning: meeting the growing demand of Nigerian women.” She revealed that the funding gap for family planning has widened from $25 million last year to $32 million in 2023.According to Dr. Khan, this growing funding gap could result in approximately 700,000 unintended pregnancies, leading to 300,000 unplanned births and 300,000 unsafe abortions. Emphasizing the significance of adequate funding for family planning programs, she stated, “Family planning programs are largely dependent on funding, and the available resources are diminishing. In 2022, there was a funding gap of $25 million, and this year we are faced with a gap of $32 million. The implications of this gap are profound, with an estimated 700,000 unintended pregnancies, 300,000 unplanned births, and 300,000 unsafe abortions.”However, Dr. Khan acknowledged the government’s efforts in implementing policies like the National Policy for Population and Sustainable Development in 2022, as well as its financial commitment to ensuring family planning.Another participant in the panel discussion, Dr. Gafar Alawode, an experienced Public Health Practitioner, raised concerns about the alarming rate of population growth in the country. He emphasized that Nigeria’s population was increasing at a faster pace than its economy, which posed a significant challenge. Dr. Alawode stated, “Nigeria is adding the equivalent population of Liberia, Togo, and perhaps Sierra Leone combined every year. What makes this even more concerning is that our population growth outpaces economic growth. This means that while the wealth is not expanding, the number of people consuming that wealth continues to grow. Consequently, the share per individual diminishes, exacerbating Nigeria’s status as the poverty capital.”Representing the UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Natalia Kanem, Ms. Erika Goldson, Acting Resident Representative of UNFPA Nigeria, emphasized that 19 percent of married women in Nigeria were unable to exercise their right to make decisions regarding childbirth and family planning. She stressed the importance of empowering women and its potential benefits for human capital development and inclusive economic growth. Ms. Goldson stated, “Realizing sexual and reproductive health and rights for all is the foundation for gender equality, dignity, and opportunity. Unfortunately, over 40 percent of women globally and 19 percent of married women in Nigeria are unable to exercise their fundamental right to make decisions about having children. Empowering women and girls, through education and access to modern contraception, supports their aspirations and enables them to chart their own path in life.”She further highlighted the crosscutting significance of gender equality in addressing various population concerns. In aging societies concerned about labor productivity, achieving gender parity in the workforce is the most effective way to improve output and income growth. On the other hand, in countries experiencing rapid population growth, women’s empowerment through education and family planning can bring enormous benefits in terms of human capital development and inclusive economic growth.During the event, Dr. Salma Anas, the Special Adviser on Health to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, acknowledged the far-reaching implications of population growth on socio-economic and environmental development. She emphasized the need to approach this issue with a holistic and sustainable mindset, particularly by investing in health and education, key aspects of sustainable development.As the discourse on funding family planning intensifies, stakeholders in Nigeria are being urged to prioritize the allocation of resources to address this critical issue, ensuring that women have access to the necessary services and support to exercise their reproductive health rights and make informed decisions about their futures.