Written by Ijeoma UKAZU

Addressing Nigeria’s fertility worry

Nigeria remains one of the countries with high Total Fertility Rate, TFR, which is, the total number of children birthed by an average Nigerian woman.


The population of Nigeria is currently projected to be 206.23 million and the fertility rate put at 5.3 which means, an average Nigerian woman gives birth to five children as compared with the global figure of 2.3 with a population of 7.8 billion.


According to World Population Data Sheet, nearly all population growth is in developing countries. This information was made available to journalists at an ongoing webinar on Data Journalism training on family planning organised by Pathfinder International.

The Data Sheet states that, the rising cause of the population is as a result of unintended pregnancies which gives rise to high fertility and subsequent population growth.


Similarly, a recent study by the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, has said that lack of access to family planning services could lead to seven million unintended pregnancies in the coming months.


UNFPA said that, more than 47 million women globally could lose access to contraception in 114 low- and middle-income countries owing to disruptions to health services occasioned by the multiple impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic.


In Nigeria according to experts, the increase fertility rate is connected to the socio-cultural explanation where the practice of polygamy is high in most regions of the country. Having a large family size is culturally symbolic as a proof of social standing in the community.


The 2018 Nigeria Demographic And Heath Survey, NDHS,  demonstrated that, household wealth status impacts fertility rate in Nigeria and that female in wealthier household had fewer children.


The NDHS also states that an average Nigerian woman gives birth to 5.3 children, adding that, women in rural areas have an average of 5.9 children compared to 4.5 children among urban women.


The report further shows, one in five teenage girls age 15-19 are already mothers or pregnant with their first child. Rural teenage girls are three times more likely to have begun childbearing than urban teenage girls which is put at 27 percent versus 8 percent.


Though several research has opined that, since Nigeria is a patriarchal society, the only avenue to status and security is through motherhood and have been the reason as to why women give birth to so many children.



The availability and accessibility of family planning commodities will assist women in spacing each pregnancy which according to Mrs Joy Adetunde, a mother of four in Ogba area of Lagos State says, family planning is a life saver.


Recounting her ordeal, Mrs Adetunde said, she almost lost her life while giving birth to her second child.



"I almost died in the delivery room while giving birth to my second child, a son. My first, a girl, was just six months when I got pregnant for the second child. It was God that saved my life that period.


"After the birth of my son, I was adviced by the mid-wife at the Primary Healthcare Centre to opt for family planning. The mid-wife told me that family planning will help me space my children, reduce the risk of dying from unplanned pregnancy and give birth to the number of children I can cater for as well as attain my goals in life."


Adetunde would have added to the alarming list of Nigeria's Maternal Mortality Rate, MMR at 576 per 100,000 live births according to 2018 NDHS which is one of the highest in the world.


The Program Officer Reproductive Health and Family Planning, Pathfinder International Nigeria,Yusuf Nuhu said, going by current fertility rate, our population will double to over 400 million by 2050 according to the Population Data Sheet.


Nuhu added that, Nigeria needs adequate planning and interventions as it is experiencing rapid population growth, with a lot of people under the younger age group than working age group. This large young population will continue to increase the fertility.


But with fewer births each year and decline in fertility, Nuhu said, "Nigeria can have the reverse. More working adults than children. In this period with more workers than dependants, a window of opportunity presents itself for accelerated economic development."



Commenting over the high fertility rate in Nigeria, Dr. Sakina Amin-Bello, Senior Programme Advisor, Reproductive Health, Pathfinder International Nigeria said, it is due to high demand for children as a cultural, traditional, social norm, early marriage; high unmet need for family planning.


According to her, all the aforementioned has ill effect on maternal health especially if the births are not adequately spaced, it affects physical, mental and social well being of women and children. 


The Reproductive Health expert said, for the children, the risk of mortality in infancy and early childhood is greater for closely spaced births and for the mother, high risk of hemorrhaging and mortality.


To curb this, she said, "the higher the contraceptive use, the lower the fertility rate. So, to reduce the high fertility in Nigeria, there is a need to increase uptake of family planning services among women of reproductive age.


Reeling out some useful strategies, Amin-Bello said, sustained advocacy to government for funding and enabling policy environment to reduce barriers to family planning access to the barest minimum as well as more demand generation for family planning.





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