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UNFPA chief commends FG’s commitment to improve women, girls’ health

Dr Natalia Kanem, the Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Wednesday commended the commitment of the Nigeria towards improving the health and lives of millions of women and girls.

She said this in an interview with State House Correspondents after a delegation of the UN and international partners on girl-child programme paid a courtesy visit to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

The visit was in connection with the family planning reference group meeting in Abuja this week where Nigeria had committed to help its girls by improving birth spacing.

“I would like to say that Nigeria benefits from leadership.

“You have a leadership that is committed to improving the health and the lives of millions of women and girls who depend on government, who depend on their own efforts in communities and who depend on international solidarity and goodwill.

“We are pleased that the minister of health, Prof. Adewole, is leading not only in Nigeria but around the world in the understanding that being able to plan your family is how you plan your future.

“We want the girls of Nigeria to finish their education.
“So we have come from so many countries from around the world to Abuja this week so that we can learn from Nigeria what it is doing to improve those conditions.

“What you are doing to give quality reproductive health services to the women and girls of this country. Even in places it is very difficult, Nigeria has extended a hand.’’

According to Kanem, the goal of UNFPA is to work with the UN system, the private sector, groups such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, governments of the UK, Canada and U.S.

She said many of the groups were focused on helping the Health Minister to reach his goal of improving the lives and health of so many girls and women in the country.

Mr Christopher Elias, the co-chair of the Family Planning 2020 Reference Group and the President, Global Development, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said it was nice to build on the legacy of late Prof. Babatunde Oshotimehin.

He expressed sympathy over the death of the former UNFPA boss, adding that the appointment of Kanem would help to strengthen the legacies.

“We are going to build on the momentum that Dr Babatunde helped to create in expanding what their life-saving programmes for women and children that benefit them, their families and their communities and have a tremendous economic benefit for the country,’’ he said.

Elias said the group was grateful that Nigeria was hosting the meeting and 23 members from around the world were in Abuja to discuss the progresses and challenges of policies on reproductive health.

He added that the group would also talk about what actions to take to realize the late Osotimehin’s vision at the London summit on family planning in 2012.

The Health Minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole added that in commemoration of the girl-child Day held on Oct. 11, everyone should be involved in addressing the challenges of the girl-child.

“All of us should be involved in making sure that we do not throw away the girl-child.

“No investment can yield better returns than investing in the girl-child; and when you invest in the girl-child you are actually investing in the entire nation.

“So to me it is an imperative. It is something that we must do.

“When we educate them we are increasing their options, we are taking them out of poverty, we are going to delay marriage and we also give them the opportunity to make the right choices, which to me is very important.

“They will decide when to marry, when to get pregnant, when to have a child, and when to stop; those are things that educated people can do.

“And so to me it is the right investment and we must also support it.’’

The minister however noted that the action must start from every adult, adding that women must also help other women to give birth to fewer babies.

According to Adewole, the demographic survey in the country indicates that Nigerian men want more children because they don’t carry pregnancies.
He said everything possible should be done to protect the girl-child and offer her the opportunity to improve.

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka
Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

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