How Can We Engage the Private Sector to Reach Family Planning Goals in Nigeria?

As the world is working together to achieve the FP 2020 goal of increasing the number of women of childbearing age on family planning methods by 2020 – there is need for a radical change in Nigeria. In addition to supporting Family Planning 2020, Nigeria has set its own target of securing a 36% contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) by 2018. 
 
The recent International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) showed us that the time is now to engage all minds in all health sectors to act as change agents for this to happen in Nigeria, the most populous country in sub-Saharan Africa.  If we do not, we run the risk of experiencing the potential great tragedy of an unmanageable population explosion that is already looming.

The standard of living in Nigeria continues to be on a great decline: children are dropping out of school on daily basis; lives are being cut short by disease; and many households are being torn apart by financial woes and the resulting strife.
 
I strongly believe that an effective way to constructively address these issues is to establish positive trends in family planning. We have seen that engaging in family planning not only secures the well-being and autonomy of women but also ultimately secures the overall health and development of communities. Nigeria needs to get more serious about family planning and dedicate itself to surmounting the huge challenge of discrediting myths and misconceptions about family planning among women. There must be an aggressive response to the fear of side effects and to overcoming the obstacles presented by age old cultural and spiritual beliefs that have remained part of the culture for decades. 
 
Family life in Nigeria can be better. Women can live healthier lives and live longer. We can sustain hope for a healthier tomorrow if we chart the course for engaging more people in the uptake of family planning. But this can only happen if there is a strong partnership among all sectors – specifically, the private sector. Just as birds cannot fly with one wing, the public sector alone cannot be expected to deliver expanded family planning options alone.  
 
And, while the private sector “wing” has been activated, there is still a need for more complete engagement we are to achieve our CPR objective and help reach the FP2020 goal.
 
Efforts to build the capacity of private providers in family planning services and in the integration of those services into the provision of other services must be intensified. The private sector must be given greater access to the government’s free family planning commodities and must be more involved in client mobilization activities. I am confident that missed opportunities will be reduced if we embrace family planning service provision in the public and private sector.
 
To echo one of the ICFP themes, change can be achieved in Nigeria if the demand for family planning services is mobilized and the response is scaled up among all women of our country –among all husbands, mothers-in-laws, and other extended family members. Religious leaders and health facilities workers must also be given a voice and support by both the public and private sectors. This will ultimately bring great improvements in the health and well- being of our people. 
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