JUST when Nigeria and other developing countries are celebrating appreciable gains in family planning and other reproductive health, US President, Donald Trump threw a cog in the wheel of progress by reinstating and expanding the Global Gag Rule.
Trump reinstated the policy with an expanded scope, denying US funding for overseas providers of global health services, if they “advocate” for or provide counseling on abortion services and forbids any non-governmental organization receiving US global health funds from using even their own, non-US funding to provide legal abortion services, information or referrals. It also bans them from engaging in advocacy to expand abortion access within their own country.
Reactions all over the world showed that majority of the people, women organisations and particularly, advocates for sexual reproductive health kicked against the policy describing it as detrimental and hurting to women.
The Chief Executive Officer of Global Help Foundation, Mrs. Uche Daodu worried that the policy will erode all the efforts and achievements of family planning in Nigeria in which Ondo state excels is a leading example thereby eroding gains achieved over the years.
The use of contraceptives among sexually active women had been gradually on the upward scale in the country since the Federal government launched its aggressive campaign even as rates unintended and unwanted pregnancy as well as unsafe abortion is beginning to yield positive results as more women are recorded to be embracing the method.
Data from the 2015 report of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), on health shows that contraceptive use among sexually active women of child bearing age increased by seven per cent compared to 2014.
In 2014, 23 per cent of sexually active Nigerian women used contraceptives, while 30 per cent used in 2015, the Bureau’s latest data showed.
Declaring that 70 percent of the grant Nigeria obtains from international family planning partners on family planning comes from USAID and other organisations, Daodu said the scourge of maternal child motality would not be combated resulting from unwanted pregnancies due to non-availability of the commodities as a result of the restriction.
Daodu relayed the Country Director of Marie stropes international who in 2016 Prevented over 240 thousand unsafe abortions of Nigeria women.
Many Nigeria girls she opined, are pushed into early marriage saying that 43 percent of the girls are teenagers indicating that many children will be born into a household who will not be educated due to financial constraint thereby they are thrown in the streets as thuggs and terrorist which is the ripple effect of the gag rule.
Non accessibility to family planning due to the global gag rule brings about teenage pregnancies and unwanted pregnancies which leads to unsafe abortion.
Narrating her case, Alice Bisiriyu, a local hairdresser living in Sabo Hausa community in Akure faces the challenge of upbringing her seven children she had for her husband whom she described as irresponsible due to inability to access family planning services.
Her challenges notwithstanding, Bisiriyu said her daughter, Saadat, 16, was impregnated by a 17-year-old leaving the baby and mother under her care.
The policy of the GGR places great threat to such family as an additional mouth is being added to a family already reeling from the stress of a large family afflicted by poverty and accessibility of family planning.
The gag rule, Daodu further exclaimed drastically affects many of the health care providers who could no longer get trained through the US funding in Nigeria.
Her word: ” If fund is not there, how can they be trained and provide such services? The long active contraceptive is provided through voluntary and counselling approach, they are specially trained on counselling of women and encouraging them to accept these contraceptive”.
Daodu who applauded Ondo state government on family planning maintained that the effect of the global gag rule will begin to manifest as soon as the commodities get exhausted and none coming to the state.
She urged the non governmental organisations and service providers to look inward to internal donors rather than relying on international ones to safe the state and nation from total distabilization and jeopardy.
Speaking on the development, The Chief Executive Officer of Kids and Teens, Mr. Martins Mary Falana showed total disappointment in the United state Government saying they were supposed to be a leading nation in the world.
“I am angry because America is supposed to be a place like the world leading country where decisions taken there, should be what other nations are following but disappointed with the present policy”, Falana said.
He described American Government as politicking with governance when it comes to health issues saying that Republicans are known for pro life, not wanting anything abortion, condom or Family planning while the Democrats wants freedom, believing so much on the fundamental human rights of the people.
Falana said the effect of the gag rule is the result of what he refered to as babies giving birth to babies as it is being experienced now at the riverrine areas in Ondo state and many other communities who have been denied access to family planning services.
This, he noted, will create an over populated country and the catastrophe would not be able to be addressed.
The country, Falana said is presently facing what he described as stock out commodities as a result of the global gag rule when there are many places that are still ignorant of family planning and its accessment .
In his reaction, the Caretaker Chairman of Ilaje local government area, Hon. Fayowole Aworetan Ayanfe confirmed shortage of health workers in his area and that the few ones on ground are not enough to attend to the Women.
Restricting the affected organisations from accessing the global fund due to the gag rule has adversely affected the outrageous number of health personnel in such an establishment whom should have been deployed to where there is shortage of personnel for family planning services.
Chairman of the Association for the Advancement of Family Planning (AAFP),Dr. Ejike Orji noted that the global gag rule though was meant to target abortion providers, had terrible consequences for the health and lives of poor women and their families in ways that had nothing to do with abortion.
Orji, who is also the President/CEO of Dr. Ejike Orji Community Development Foundation, said “From 2001 to 2009, 20 developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Middle East lost Us donated contraceptives and many organisations and clinics were forced to reduce services, lay off staff, or shut down entirely”.
President Trump’s order to block US aid to organisation’s Orji said will restrict nearly $9billion in foreign health assistance where past actions were limited to about $600 million in family planning funding.