As demand for family planning services spike
No less than 793,601 unintended pregnancies and 279, 538 unsafe abortions were prevented in Nigeria, during the three months of COVID-19 lockdown between March and May 2020.
Over the same period, an estimated 3,968 maternal deaths, including 19,781 child deaths, were averted as a result of increased demand for family planning and other essential sexual and reproductive health services in the country.
The Country Director, Marie Stopes International Organisation Nigeria, MSION, Dr. Effiom Nyong Effiom, who disclosed this, said 77,628 persons across the country were using at least one family planning method provided through the MSION service delivery channels during the lockdown.
Effiom, who spoke during a family planning webinar organised by MSION in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health, said the consumption of key family planning commodities doubled as a result of increased demand for sexual and reproductive health services during the lockdown.
In his presentation entitled “MSION Perspective: “Sustaining Family Planning & Sexual Reproductive Health Services Delivery amid COVID-19 Pandemic”, Effiom said client visits to supported facilities increased by 22 percent during the COVID-19 outbreak.
In a comparison of client visits and service uptake, he explained that the service delivery centres witnessed 772,628 total client visits during the lockdown compared to 415,343 pre-COVID.
“We witnessed increased client visit and service uptake in the three months of COVID-19 and despite the lockdown and movement restrictions, MSION frontline health workers in 2,345 public health facilities, 167 community-based delivery Network of Marie Stopes Ladies, 220 social franchise, three MSI centres of excellence and 23 mobile outreach teams have continued to provide services.
“The number of short-term commodities issued to clients increased to 1,903,081 from 1,519,546. Within the same period, the number of implants issued increased from 209,355 to 405,858; Intrauterine Device, IUDs, from 44,907 to 92,773, and permanent methods from 48 to 92.”
A close look at the data indicated there was an increase in the practice of unsafe termination of unintended and unwanted pregnancies during the lockdown. In the two months pre- lockdown, 31,087 persons received post-abortion care, but demand increased in the following three months with 62,980 persons receiving the services.
According to Effiom, preference for short-term family planning methods topped the list during the three months of the lockdown compared to the two months previously. the permanent method, implant, and IUD doubled within the period.
Also speaking, the Director/Head Reproductive Health Division, FMOH, Dr. Kayode Afolabi, said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the provision of RH/FP Services at the global level exposed the fragility of the supply chain, especially as manufacturing, shipping logistics were slowed or halted.
He said there was a sharp decline in the uptake of family planning services during the lockdown as a result of the non-availability of Personal Protective Equipments, PPEs, at family planning service delivery points, posing a potential increased risk of contracting COVID-19 by health care workers and family planning clients.
“Between January and April 2020, the national demand for family planning commodities dropped. Of the three commodities presented, injectables recorded the highest percentage decline from 270,137 to 191,989 (29 percent), closely followed by implants (from 116,939 to 93,720 (20 percent) and IUDs from 21,701 to 18,657 (14 percent).”
According to him, services were interrupted at tertiary, secondary and primary health facilities due restrictions on movement to contain the spread of COVID-19 even as incidences of stock-outs of commodities were recorded,
“Reproductive health and family planning services were not prioritised in the initial COVID-19 response plan at national and state levels while guidelines were lacking in protocols to be followed in offering services.
Afolabi said between January and April 2020, there was a 5.5 fold decrease in the number of family planning training conducted and uploaded to the National family planning dashboard. Only 303 providers received in-service family planning training compared to over 4,300 in 2019
He remarked that as part of the response, family planning commodity supplies and services are being integrated into the overall National Health Response, even as the community-based family planning programme has been strengthened to ensure that clients receive services and commodities within their immediate communities including in humanitarian settings.