NGO Urges FG To Place Premium Attention On Reproductive Health Needs Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

Segun Babatunde in Bauchi

As Nigeria joins the World to celebrate this year’s World Population Day, a renowned Non Governmental Organisation(NGO), Development Communications Network (DevComs) has urged the Federal government to provide for the needs of women and girls in line with this year’s World Population Day (WPD) which focuses on raising awareness of women’s and girls’ needs for sexual and reproductive health (SRH) during the Corona Virus (COVID-19) pandemic.

According to a Press release signed and issued by the Program Officer (Communications) of DevComs , Fausiat Bakare-Balogun and made to newsmen in Bauchi yesterday, “it is imperative that the government should provide adequate protection against adversities arising from the negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls in the country.

The press release also said that evidence has shown that the pandemic has made women and girl’s more vulnerable with dare consequences that includes sexual violence, rape, unplanned pregnancy and various other hazards including loss of lives.

The statement further disclosed that, women and girls make up over 49% of the total population in Nigeria (According to World Bank) and it is highly imperative that the needs of half the population of the country be prioritized to enhance gender equality for all. Majority of women and girls in the country still live in extreme poverty, are out of school or not aware of their Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR).

This, according to findings by experts, “have rendered the group vulnerable as a result of lack of equal opportunities compared to their male counterpart, especially amidst the pandemic”.

The statement quoted DevComs Executive Director, Akin Jimoh, as saying that “there is a need for sustainable public information dissemination as a first step to address the vulnerabilities revolving around SRH challenges of women and girls in order for them to live a healthy life even in the face of COVID-19.”

The statement further informed that, a good sexual and reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system (UNFPA 2020). It implies that women and girls are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life, the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so. A lot of women and girls are not aware of their SRHR. To maintain a healthy sexual and reproductive health women and girls need access to quality and accurate information on safe, effective, affordable and acceptable contraception of choice.

“Another major key to addressing SRH vulnerabilities of women and girl’s is to make available modern contraceptives/ family planning (FP) commodities and supplies, including menstrual health and hygiene items. This is because these items are central to adolescents’ girls and women’s health, empowerment, and the exercise of sexual and reproductive health and rights as these groups can be disproportionately affected by the pandemic (UNFPA, 2020)”.

“The media advocacy project on Family Planning (FP) by DevComs Network, in partnership with the Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI), The Challenge Initiative (TCI), alongside governments at all levels has proven the media to be a strategic tool to sensitizing women and girls on their SRH rights”.

Our correspondent reports that, DevComs Network in collaboration with TCI is currently training and mentoring journalists across media organisations in 13 states across the country. The organisation has over the years trained and mentored journalists in all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, playing a leading role in strategic communication and media engagement in science and public Health issues concerning different sectors of the Nigerian economy. END

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