The 1st Professor Babatunde Osotimehin National Reproductive Health Legacy Forum (PBOLF), held at the Otunba Subomi Balogun Conference Centre, University of Ibadan on 19th July 2019, themed, “Meeting family planning 2020 goal: whither Nigeria?” The forum was organized by the academy of health development, Ile-ife, Nigeria (AHEAD) in partnership with the college of Medicine, university of Ibadan, and the paaneah foundation, Ota, Ogun State, and with the support of the Partnership for Advocacy for child and family health at scale (PAS) anchored by the development research and projects centre, Abuja (dRPC).
PBOLF is designed as a platform for national dialogue and advocacy to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights. It also serves as a medium to celebrate and promote the legacy of Professor Babatunde Osotimehin who served meritoriously as provost, college of medicine, university of Ibadan, Director – General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, minister of health and executive director of the united nations population fund (UNFPA).
The PBOFL was well attended including members of the Osotimehin family led by Mrs. Olufunke Osotimehin (wife of the late professor Osotimehin), and state government officials, academicians, health professionals, members of civil society organizations, officials of development partners, media practitioners, and students. Prominent participants included Emeritus Professor Oladipo Akinkungbe, Emeritus Professor Wale Akinsola, Prof Eghosa Osaghae (former vice chancellor, Igbinedion University) and Mr. Niyi Ojuolape (UNFPA representative, Ghana). The forum was chaired by Prof. Oladosu Ojengbede and coordinated by Prof. Adesegun Fatusi and Prof. Olawunmi Fatusi, the co-founders of AHEAD. The programme featured a distinguished lecture, a panel discussion, the launch of a commemorative edition of the archives of Ibadan Medicine by the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, and presentations by the National Primary Healthcare development agency and six implementing partners of the bill and Melinda gates foundation – support family planning project.
Prof. Emmanuel Oladipo Otolorin, in his lecture, noted with concern that Nigeria’s population of about 200 million will increase to about 543 million in 2050 at her current growth rate of 2.6%, which will make her the third most populous country in the world. Approximately 44% of the country’s population is 15 years or younger and for every working adult, there is one dependent individual who is either under 15 or over 65 years. In 2018, only 12% of currently married women in Nigeria were using modern contraceptive childbearing. The North has a lower contraceptive rate and higher adolescent childbearing compared to the South. Nigeria has not been able to meet her national population policy targets and is not on track to meet her EP2020 commitment of increasing the modern contraceptive prevalence rate to 27% by 2020. Overall, Nigeria’s high population growth rate has significant negative implications for socio-economic development and quality of life citizens.
Prof. Otolorin highlighted that investments in family planning save lives, empower women and girls, strengthen health systems and have a profound and lasting impact on development. Nigeria needs to urgently increase her investments in family planning programming and improve access to and quality of the services to improve the health, well-being and the overall quality of life of her population. Family planning should be integrated into all maternal health services and the delivery of family life and HIV education significantly expanded and improved. The child rights act needs to be domesticated and vigorously implemented by all the states to reduce the rate of girl-child marriage and teenage childbearing with the associated high risk of maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity.
Innovative approaches and private sector engagement are also needed to improve family planning service delivery and impact. The panel of discussants comprised of Dr. Kayode Afolabi (Director, reproductive health, federal ministry of health) and Dr. Omolaso Omosehin (Assistant representative, UNFPA) advocated that Nigeria should adopt the sector-wide approach to improve donor coordination as well as the efficiency and impact of family planning programmes.