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Increased Birth Rate: Should Nigerians be Worried?

January 23, 2021 | Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
Written by Koboju Etariemi

Did you know?

Nigeria is the most populous nation in the continent of Africa and the seventh most popular nation in the world according to WorldOMeter.

Though Nigeria has not had a general census since 2006, current global estimate pegs the Nation’s current population at 200 million. Seems like all is in order, but there is one question we need to ask: Is the time right for us to consider birth restrictions?

The CIA World Factbook in November 2020 pegged the percentage of Children between 0-14 years at 41.7% of the total population (male 45,571,738 and female 43,674,769). This class has the highest percentage.

To further shed light on this, let me go a step further: According to Global Statistics Portal Statista, the birth rate in Nigeria in 2020 was estimated to be equal to 37.3 births per 1,000 people. This might look minute, but when pitched against the entire population, it spirals out of control.

What exactly is the effect of an increased birth rate on our population? The most obvious effect of this would be increased pressure on the amenities provided by the government for the people. Lagos for example. I’m certain that the city was not designed to house that much people. Yet it is, mounting pressure on the amenities that were designed to cater for a few. Our cities are bursting at it seems.

When a country has high birth rates the entire country suffers from its direct correlations. I believe that high birth rates cause poverty over an entire country because the more a population grows the more mouths it has to feed, the more bodies it has to clothe and shelter.

There is an increased poverty level. The gap between the classes of people living in the nation widens. There wouldn’t be a clear cut difference between the rich and the poor anymore. The average middle-class family will now struggle to feed. The standard of living skyrockets, forcing only the super-rich to be able to afford the most basic of amenities. It has a ripple effect.

And it is even worse because Nigeria is in an economic recession. And this recession is the worst in 36 years as data obtained from the World Bank. The report indicated that the country’s Gross Domestic Product dropped by 10.92 per cent in 1983 and 1.2 per cent in 1984. This is the second recession in five years. All these amid a rising debt profile, increased rate of inflation and a skyrocketing rate of unemployment. So, more mouths to feed would only compound the Nation’s woes.

Why do people go-ahead to have large families?

 A lot of rural communities in Nigeria rely on farming for their livelihood, so a man and women will have a lot of children to help take care of the farm for many generations.

There is also a religious factor. In some parts of Nigeria, women get married at about the age of 13, this means that a woman can have children until she is about the age of 45, or until her childbearing years are over. The same religion allows a man to marry up to four (4) wives. This further compounds issues because that man can have up to 30 children.

What can be done to tackle the increased birth rate?

The population growth though unsustainable can be limited. While I understand that the Nigerian Government might not be able to implement a one-child policy that was introduced into China in 1980, here’s what the Government can do differently to reduce the birth rate.

1. Promote family planning

Simply educating men and women about contraception can have a big impact. When Iran introduced a national family planning programme in 1989, its fertility rate fell from 5.6 births per woman to 2.6 in a decade. A similar effort in Rwanda saw a threefold increase in contraception usage in just five years. We need to be more open about it. Let people know publicly the plans that exist and the benefits of it. Nigerian Women and Men and need to be educated in contraceptives so that the birth rate can drop dramatically.

2. Empower women

Studies show that women with access to reproductive health services find it easier to break out of poverty, while those who work are more likely to use birth control. The United Nations Population Fund aims to tackle both issues at once, running microcredit projects to turn young women into advocates for reproductive health.

3. Mass Media Sensitization

The US-based Population Media Center gets creative to reach women. Its radio soap operas, which feature culturally specific stories about reproductive issues, have been heard by as many as 500 million people in 50 countries. In Ethiopia, 63 per cent of women seeking reproductive health services reported tuning in.

We need something of that sort in Nigeria. In some parts of the nation, a women’s reputation and marriage could be destroyed if she refuses to have unprotected sex with her husband. Some religions believe contraceptives are the evil work of the western world and this is wrong. We need to re-educate the minds of these people, so the birth rates can be reduced.

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