The Family Clinic at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) was busy last Wednesday. It was well past 2.00 p.m. Doctors and nurses bustled about the narrow corridor that overlooked the main road. Most of them were busy attending to patients. Two male doctors who sat close to entrance declined to speak. “We are not permitted to speak with journalists,” one of them said.
However, a resident doctor at the hospital who did not wish to be named said there had been an upsurge in the number of clients visiting the family planning clinic since the onset of recession
“The awareness is high but a lot still needs to be done in the rural parts. That’s where the problem really is. I am not talking about people living outside Lagos. All the slums in Lagos are parts of the rural communities we are talking about. We need people to take the message to them as well. Family planning is like a course in the university. Take the issue of contraceptives for example. You need a doctor to give you all the available options and then discuss with you what methods are most suitable for you.”
Planning is prevention
At G and T Nursing and Maternity, Ilapo Estate, Alagbado, the family planning section is supervised by Mrs Florence Yusuf. She said the “good side” of the recession is that the campaign for family planning is at last receiving the attention and urgency it deserves.
“I want to confirm that there has been an improvement in the rate at which people come for counselling. People have been coming more and more to the clinic. And when they leave, they tell others. There are a number of NGOs that have also been collaborating with us and other clinics. With the collaboration, the charges are drastically reduced so that almost everybody can afford it.
“Now with recession, I don’t think we need to continue to emphasise the need to plan. What I mean is that the condition is even helping us to spread the message. Everybody now weighs their pocket. You know that every child has a number of fundamental rights, like the right to education, shelter, clothing and food. And those are the basic ones. With the way things are, we are supposed to have more clients in the family planning clinics across the country. There is no point bringing a child to this world without having any plans for the child.
“Our emphasis is on prevention. Abortion is not a part of family planning. And, you know, the law of the land does not support abortion. Planning makes it possible for parents to have enough for their children. I have seen parents who would come to the clinic and their children are sick and they cannot even afford the drugs for their treatment, even the cheapest capsules, they cannot buy,” Yusuf said.
Schools and fees
Perhaps it is in the task of keeping children in school that the pang of the crisis is most severe.
On September 20, 2016, a Twitter user, IK Osakioduwa (@ik_osakioduwa) tweeted: “In this … economy, (people) are pricing their children’s school fees, like: ‘How much, if we remove English? And PE?’”
Parents who spoke to Saturday Tribune during the week agreed that the rewards of having fewer children to cater for are many at a time like this.
Mrs Ukamaka Ugwu, a bead maker at Ikotun, said it would have been difficult for her to afford her children’s school fees if they were not only three.
“My children are three,” she said. “Everything we pay every term, combined, is about N32,000. That is still too much. I don’t know what I would have done if I had more children.”
A former bank worker and father of three, Mr Maxwell Opia-Enwemuche, said he had learned to “cut down on expenses” at home.
“Cutting down on expenses does not mean starving. This should be systematically done. Running costs in the home will always be there. The family must eat and the children’s need must be taken care of. Also avoid the waste of anything. Measure the quantity of food to be consumed and don’t overcook to lead to spoilage and wastage. Buy the quantity of fuel you need, and curtail the number of hours you run your generators.”
It would seem that it is in response to the rising demand for family planning that the Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI) recently renovated a number of family clinics in Lagos.
The primary healthcare centres that benefitted from the facelift – sponsored by the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation) – include those in Agege, Oshodi-Isolo, and Alimosho local government areas. Additional centres were selected from Ejigbo, Isolo, Ikosi-Isheri, Aboyi-Ketu, Agbado-Okeodo, and Egbe-Idimu Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs).
The Lagos State team leader of NURHI, Dr Edun Omasanjuwa, said: “The idea behind this project is to increase quality and access to family planning among women and men of reproductive age in Lagos State and in Nigeria as a whole, so that we can increase our contraceptive prevalence rate from the current national level of 15 per cent to 36 per cent.
“Research has shown that family planning saves lives and reduces maternal deaths by up to 40 per cent. So if 10 women were to die as a result of pregnancy, family planning can save three to four of those women.”
Sex and depression
Even as the message of restraint has continued to gain ground, Olatoun Ayoola, a sex therapist and owner of the online counselling outfit, Our Intimate Secrets, told Saturday Tribune that there is a natural tendency for people who are idle or depressed to engage in frequent sexual activity.
“I would definitely agree that the present economic situation in Nigeria will definitely make more people have more sex. Imagine someone who has just been sacked. He or she now has more time on his or her hands to indulge in sex. And sex is quite relaxing, and it’s a form of succour.
“But this present tide will also increase the rate of abortions and family planning method. Most people would not necessarily go for family planning because awareness is still low here in Nigeria. However, there would be higher rate of protection (condom usage), and in cases where pregnancy occurs, abortion is most definitely the next port of call in these trying times,” Ayoola said.