One thing that has served as the central goal of my professional life has been my commitment to doing all I can to save the lives of African women and particularly Nigerian women…
Imagine that there is something, one single action or policy that could lower Nigeria’s high rate of maternal mortality by 70%, prevent unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and HIV/AIDs. Imagine that this single policy, if implemented well, could also increase economic resources per capita and usher in a prosperous decade in Nigeria. Imagine that this policy could empower Nigerian women and allow them to participate fully in the formal economy. Imagine that this policy could also, again if implemented efficiently, result in a 50% decrease in infant deaths, ease of the overwhelming pressure the earth is under. If there is one thing that could serve as a single silver bullet for prosperity and societal wellbeing, it is giving all women the right and access to the range of sexual reproductive health services there are. I am confident that if Nigeria is able to end governmental corruption and incompetence, there would still be a big percentage of Nigerians in poverty because of our rapid population growth. It is incredible that we have not started a national conversation on this issue that could possibly be a major game changer in making Nigerian lives a little easier.
One thing that has served as the central goal of my professional life has been my commitment to doing all I can to save the lives of African women and particularly Nigerian women and to help create an environment where they can thrive and live their best lives. One thing that could save about 1,131 lives every week is giving access to the 20% of Nigerian women who want modern family planning methods but do not have access to them. That is right, almost 16 million Nigerians, all over the country, want access to these life saving methods but because of the inefficient Nigerian health system, they do not use these methods and are forced to give birth to children they do not want and cannot afford. This reduces the quality of life for the mother and the children and for our country.
Even so, proper sexual reproductive health services saves lives by allowing women to make the right choices for their health. Pregnancy is hard on a woman’s body and a 6th pregnancy carries 50% more risk of death than a 3rd pregnancy. Every time a woman has to have a child when her body is no longer keen, she carries a major burden and death is often the consequence. Allowing women to make better choices will save countless lives in our country and this is an issue that the leadership of the country needs to commit to. Increasing access to sexual reproductive health services will also ease the burden on the health system and guarantee that when women do choose to get pregnant, they will get the best care they could possibly get during childbirth. Which will also further decrease our horrific rate of maternal and child mortality.
As it stands, there are about 500,000 abortions in Nigeria every year. Considering that abortions are illegal in Nigeria, this means that many of these women actually die during the procedure. Illegal abortions often lead to a strain on the health system that could have been avoided if the system gave these women access to the methods that would have prevented unwanted abortions. I, of course, believe that access to abortion is a human right that Nigerian women deserve, however, as a public health professional, I will rather have these 500,000 women get access to family planning methods that would prevent them needed access to even this human right.
If there is anything close to a silver bullet against perpetual poverty, I am inclined to believe that it is access to family planning methods that works. It is rather fascinating that this conversation is not one we have started. Nigerian women deserve better and it is high time the leadership of the country starts to pay attention to this.