•Northern women jettison superstition, go for family planning
Multiple child birth, especially in northern Nigeria, is a practice most women take pride in. It is also common to see one man with three or four wives having between 40 and 50 children. Such a family boasts of its children as “wealth” even when there are no adequate resources to cater for them.
Through this unplanned childbirth, the notion of almajiri system, which now plagues the region, came to be. Women, who get more appreciation for the number of children they give birth to, unfortunately, bear the brunt of the weird bravery largely due to ignorance, poverty and lack of access to quality healthcare, and this leads to the rise in death rate of mothers and newborn. In recent past, discussing issues of family planning was done in secrecy and openly engaging its service was almost a taboo as many view family planning as a strange Western culture aimed at reducing African population. Bizarre tales were told to discourage those who wanted to plan their homes while lack of qualified personnel and healthcare facilities compounded the problem. Limited facilities which offered family planning services recorded very minimal patronage and it was commonplace to hear women say that the intra uterine device, IUD, one of the family planning methods inserted in a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy, roam around the body. Some claim the Jadelle implant inserted in the hand disappears in the body whereas others say the injection method causes miscarriages when one is actually ready to get a baby, believing that family planning causes barrenness. However, the emerging insurgency, biting economic hardship, available healthcare facilities and qualified personnel have reversed the trend, forcing more women in the region to embrace the hitherto forbidden family planning services. To give professional family planning, Plateau State Ministry of Health, through its Family Planning Technical Team, Voice for Family Planning and Reproductive Health Centre, established in 2014, set out to save women’s lives and ensured that they get access to timely and quality family planning service in approved facilities. The team, headed by a Consultant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Dr. Josiah Mutihir, advocated for budgetary provision to ensure family planning commodities and consumables are provided free in accredited facilities and personnel trained to enhance their capacity in giving quality family planning services. To ascertain if there is any reasonable improvement in clients’ access to family planning services in the last three years, Sunday Vanguard visited some Family Planning units in Jos North local government area. At the PHC Township, Tafawa Balewa Ward, a Chief Nursing Officer, Mrs. Bonmwa Iliya, who heads the Family Planning Unit, explained what obtained in the past and the situation now, saying a lot has changed. “This is a commercial area and we have women from all walks of life coming here to access family planning services. Though the number fluctuates, on the whole, more women are embracing family planning unlike before. Older women go for the long term procedure while the younger women go for the short term”, she said. Iliya went on: “We have many facilities now offering family planning services and I attend to almost 200 women in a month, which means there is improvement. Even the cost of family planning services has reduced greatly. Some methods here are free but for a few, we collect stipend to buy consumables because the commodities do not come with them. “From January 2018 to August, we have seen 1,131 women in this facility. Many people say the white man brought family planning to reduce our population but that is not true; in the olden days; we had traditional methods of family planning. Herbs were used in the olden days before the coming of the white man. Polygamy too was used as a method of family planning to allow one woman to rest before having another baby. “Some women complain of complications and most of what we get is bleeding, so we investigate to know if it is actually from the method or there is an infection. If there is infection, we treat. We disprove erroneous messages using the models here to explain to women. In a month; about 20 to 50 men come with their wives to access family planning services though some men still forbid their wives from having family planning thinking it will encourage them to flirt.” The official called for engagement of more trained personnel and creation of awareness for men to patronize vasectomy, saying, “We need more personnel because we don’t have the right personnel in place, so the few are overworked. Again, we have been talking more about women, what about the men? There is a misconception on the part of men who believe that if they do vasectomy, they will not function as men again but it is not true. “We will like government to create more awareness so that men will see the need to patronize vasectomy, everything is free. Emphasis is on women family planning and men are left behind. We would like government to create more awareness so that men can come for vasectomy.” Also at the PHC, Jos Jarawa facility, which commenced family planning service in December, 2011, the caregiver, Bridget Datoegoem, said, at that time, that the turnout was not more than 50 in a month, however, that, in recent time, the story has changed. “In 2017, 1,051 women accessed the services but within this year, 901 have accessed the service and the year is yet to end.” She also called for vasectomy for men stressing, “Many men who are polygamists are averse to the idea of vasectomy because they have more than one wife who are still giving birth to children”. She appealed to government to “create awareness so that men would see the need to also sacrifice for their wives who are already doing a lot to make them happy.” Mutihir appealed to women to seek help so they don’t die in the process of childbirth. “Family planning is responsible parenthood, responsible child spacing and helps families to have the number of children they can cater for at a particular time and at the particular age”, the Consultant said. He called on government at the state and local government levels to give support in areas of supplies of commodity and consumables as well as engage quality service providers to attend to those in need as population needs to grow alongside development so that there will not be problem.