September 25, 2023

Lara Adejoro

Medical experts have said maternal health services can be free if maternal health is prioritised in the country.

The experts say prioritising maternal health and increasing the funding for family planning will reduce maternal and infant mortality.

The experts who brought this to the fore at a one-day summit organised by the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists in Abuja on Thursday noted that candidates seeking elective positions in the 2023 forthcoming elections must prioritise the health sector and make maternal health services free for every woman of reproductive age.

The Reportr Door reports that the summit themed, ‘Raising voices for more funding for family planning and free maternal health services by incoming political leaders,’ was supported by the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health at Scale, and anchored by the Development Research and Projects Centre.

Speaking, the President of the Association for Reproductive and Family Health, Prof Oladapo Ladipo, said free maternal health services were possible in the country.

“The Ondo State government during the Governor Segun Mimiko administration did it. They were spending about N6,500 on every pregnant mother and the maternal mortality in that state was reduced. So, it is doable.

“These are women producing the next generation. So, the government owes it to them,” he said.

Prof. Ladipo called on journalists to champion the course of free maternal health services by informing the incoming administration to prioritise the health sector, provide more funding for family planning and improve maternal health services.

“Health is a basic human right and making health a priority will go a long way to reduce the challenges in the health sector. The government has to be convinced that it is a priority.

“They pledged $4m counterpart funding for family planning and they have not even provided it. The government should provide $1 per woman of reproductive age to meet their reproductive health needs. It is not too much to do, but they are not even willing to do so.

“They can raise money from other sources as well. There are innovative ways of doing so, through indirect taxation, getting donations from people or the aviation sector,” he said.

Also, the Chairman of the Association for the Advancement of Family Planning, Dr. Ejike Orji, called for more funding for family planning.

According to him, family planning issues should be a concern for every patriotic Nigerian.

He said poor family planning funding could lead to maternal death.

He called on the government to recruit more midwives and provide good remuneration to get their commitment to work, adding that the family planning 2030 commitment of one per cent of the health budget must be made a priority at all government levels.

“There are mechanisms for putting more money into family planning, it’s just for them to implement it. There is a basic healthcare provision fund and the money is supposed to be used for primary healthcare, including family planning services.

“The policies are already there, we just need to implement them,” he said.

On his part, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said family planning was globally recognised as an important strategy for the prevention of maternal morbidity and mortality.

Ehanire, who was represented by the Deputy Director, Family Planning Logistics, Federal Ministry of Health, Ugochukwu Alex, said, “Family planning has been used by many nations to achieve remarkable socio-economic growth and development.

“It is in the light of the above that Nigeria has incorporated family planning as a key component in the National Policy on Population for Sustainable Development as well as the National Development Plan, both currently being implemented by the Governments of the Federation.”

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