Africa: Using familiar language to manage surging population

World population is increasing at alarming rate, analysts have lots of different statistics to back this assumption up. The upward movement affects different parts of the world differently, for us in Nigeria it means surpassing US population in 2050 and by 2100 very close to 1 billion people.

According to  Population Reference Bureau, total fertility rates have declined in all regions of the world over the last four decades. 2013 world’s average number of child per woman is 2.5 as opposed to 4.4 in 1970, Africa is 4.7 as opposed to 6.7 in 1970.

In other words, Africans birth rate per woman is significantly higher than the rest of the world and the trend is assumed to continue.

For starters,  the poorer one is the more children they tend to have and vice versa – all factors considered.

Now, one may ask what part of the need for population control does my people don’t get – plenty. This is partly because the compelling needs for contraceptive/family planning have not been explained in the language people understood.

The more the merrier is still largely entertained. Or sometimes the need for particular gender get the best of common sense.

What don’t we get?

An uncle visited his niece a while ago. Getting there, he met her with a newborn. The excited uncle picked up the phone to congratulate his sister – niece’s mother. The sister was happy too, and then asks whose baby that was as between the family there are a few women of childbearing age.

“Your daughter, Mama Emmanuel” The uncle replied.

“O daa, e se o, adun a kari” – ‘Thank you, w’ll all have a cause to celebrate’ – Niece’s mother prayed.

The old lady was confused, she wondered what she must have done to her daughter that made her hid her pregnancy news. They’re close-knit family where two weeks was too long for not hearing from one another.

Mama Emmanuel hid the news from all her siblings too.

Why the secrecy?

The newborn was the fifth child – all blessings.  The newborn immediate older brother was nine years old while the first child of the family was 18years old at the time of her birth.

After the news broke to everyone, they all rejoiced and happy that the baby and mother are well.

Mama Emmanuel has done well for herself, she started family very young – had the last child at 38. She and husband own home and children are in a relatively good school.

Why was she so self cautious?

A few weeks after the birth story, I spoke to the newborn’s sister to see how she’s getting on – she loved her baby sister but could not believe her mother would get pregnant again given how hard she had to work in order to contribute her share of keeping the family afloat.

“Promise you wouldn’t tell Maami” she pleaded. – suspecting a good gossip so promised. Her mother had difficult time given birth, she had intended to give birth at home but had to be rushed to a nearby clinic. Baby came and was well.

During the discharge checks, the doctor on duty asked if Mama Emmanuel knew about family planning, before she could talk, the doctor said “because if you don’t, we have a unit here” in a condescending tone that saddened her afterwards.

While I understand the doctor’s attitude, I really do not agree with him insulting a new mother to get the message across, Nigeria need professionals who can deliver without belittling people.

The way we understand the effect of population increase differs greatly in Nigeria – this cuts across board.  Sometimes, it was like beating a dead horse trying to explain connection between increasing population and poverty rate, let alone environmental consequences.

According to PRB: contraceptive usage among Nigerian women in relation to other women around the world is not surprising. 15%  of Nigerians while the rest of the world is 63% – this was 2014 data.

Change is hard, and I don’t blame Mama Emmanuel’s doctor for being insensitive, this is Nigeria where we often forget how connected we all are.

How about if Nigeria imitate Mechai Viravaidya’s strategy of aggressively educating the population and making contraceptives available everywhere and anywhere? And in the process reduce poverty?

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