Abuja, Nigeria — In 2020, Aisha Ali and her husband decided she would take a birth control injection after having nine children.
Ali said the decision was due to financial constraints.
She told VOA that she is “a petty trader and my husband is a motorcycle rider. We want the best for our children but don’t make enough money.”
But the contraceptive Ali was given suppresses ovulation for only a few years.
Many Nigerian women like Ali, especially those in rural areas, surpass the national birth rate of about five children per woman.
Evelyn Isienyi had eight children before her husband passed away in 2018. Now she says she’s struggling to take care of them.
“Even if my husband was alive,” Isienyi said, “I wouldn’t want to have more children because of the hardship. Things are very difficult for me.”
The United Nations Population Fund [UNFPA] pointed to low funding for procurement of family planning consumables, cultural bias and so-called “male dominance” as major factors affecting uptake of family planning measures here.
This is the reason the U.N. raised concerns that population growth, especially in Africa, is not sustainable.
Marking the world population milestone of 8 billion earlier this month, U.N. officials called the population growth a result of improvements in medicine and public health leading to reduced mortality rates.
According to Erika Goldson, the deputy country representative for Nigeria at the UNFPA, “There are major advancements happening, but one of the things that concerns us at the U.N. is that this progress is not received equally across board. There are some citizens [who are] denied access to basic health care, basic education — their whole overall quality of life is affected negatively.”
Eight countries worldwide are expected to account for more than half of the global population growth over the next three decades. Five of them are in Africa, including Nigeria.
Nigeria is already the seventh-largest population in the world, and 95 million of its people live below $2.15 a day, according to World Bank data for 2022.
In February of this year, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari launched a national population policy to control high fertility rates and improve access to modern family planning tools.
To help, the U.N. and Nigerian officials educate women about family planning in rural areas. But Goldson says Nigeria must budget more money for family planning to achieve more tangible goals.
“Since this year,” Goldson explained, “We’ve had a gap of 25 million [dollars], and that had to do with a lot of economic downturn because of the COVID-19. We also have the issue around the Ukraine war, and that had affected donor contribution. A lot of the issues around family planning, especially procurement, is very donor-driven, which is very risky for Nigeria.”
Health officials say Nigeria needs to invest $35 million every year to address family planning gaps but only earmarked only $50,000 for it in the national budget for next year.
Civil society groups are calling for authorities to increase the allotment before the budget is approved by the national assembly in December.