Religious, traditional leaders endorse family planning

Religious and traditional leaders on Wednesday endorsed family planning programmes to improve living standards.
They also called on government to increase funding and awareness campaigns to create more demand for the family planning services.
The leaders said these at the 2016 Faith Leaders Response Conference ahead of the 4th National Planning Conference scheduled for November 7 to 9 in Abuja.
Dr. Ejike Orji, the Local Organising Committee Chairman for the conference, said family planning has been universally recognised as one of the key pillars and most effective means of achieving safe motherhood.
Orji added that every two years; the Federal Ministry of Health and Association for the Advancement of Family Planning bring together stakeholders to a national family planning conference.
He said Nigeria made a commitment to provide $3 million for the contraceptive commodities annually at the London Family Planning summit in 2012.
Orji, however, noted that only about $3 million was released from 2012 to date, adding that in the 2016 budget N762 million was appropriated, which is not up to $3 million.
He added that the pledge was to support government policy that made family planning services free at all public hospitals in the country.
Orji said: “It is sad news to us, because, in the celebrated global increase in the use of contraception, Nigeria happens to be one of the poor performing countries in this season of success.
“The reason being largely, that family planning programmes have not been given priority and funded.”
Mojisola Odeku, the Director, National Urban and Reproductive Health Initiative 2, described Nigeria as a highly religious community with two major religions which are critical to promoting family planning in the country.
Odeku added that the two faiths drew their strength from the Holy Books of the Bible and Qur’an, which strongly support family planning.
Odeku said: “The whole context is that messages from both scriptures are limited for adequate consumption of the public and these religious leaders are critical hence the interfaith conference.
“We have a community of about 60 per cent illiteracy, those that are literate don’t even go deep into their religious books and they depend on whatever the religious leaders downloaded to them.
“We thought it pertinent that the religious leaders need to be well empowered to ensure that they project the key messages from the Bible and Qur’an that are supportive of family planning.”
Rev. Musa Ajakaiye, the General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, said the Bible encouraged people to be cautious in everything including family planning.
Ajakaiye, represented by Elder Sunday Ehigbe, the Public Relations Officer of the Northern Christian Forum, said Psalms says that children are the gift from God and the gift has its own responsibilities.
Ajakaiye said: “Because the Bible say any man who could not provide for his immediate family is worst than an unbeliever.
“To that extent, a Christian believes that what God has given to you as a man must be protected.
“The children the God has given to you through the woman must also be under the protective care of the parent.”
Ajakaiye added that any man that has not been able to do that he has left the faith, God through Christian’s scriptures is not anti-family planning.
He said CAN is a firm believer that family planning messages can be better disseminated through the various Christian instruments.
Similarly, Dr. Khalid Abubakar, the Secretary General, Jamaatul Nasril Islam, said several verses of the Qur’an encourage family planning.
Abubakar, represented by Alhaji Kabir Bashir, said Qur’an specifically said from conception of a pregnancy to weaning there is 30 months, suggesting the adoption of various child spacing techniques.

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