Chairman Speech for 2020 World Population Day

Protocol:

Honourable Federal Commissioners National Population Commission

UNFPA Representative and other Heads of UN Agencies present

Distinguished Stakeholders,

Gentlemen of the Press

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my pleasure and honour to welcome you to the celebration of the WORLD POPULATION DAY (WPD) 2020 with the theme: Putting the Brakes on COVID-19: “How to Safeguard the Health and Rights of Women and Girls now”. The World Population Day (WPD) is part of international awareness campaign that is celebrated annually to beam global attention on the urgency and importance of population issues universally. The day gives us the opportunity to take stock of the state of the population especially those often left behind especially, women and girls and thereby determine the way forward in ensuring their fundamental human rights are upheld.

The theme of this year’s Population Day couldn’t have come at a better time than now when the world is saddled with the scourge of the COVID 19 pandemic and its damming consequences especially on the women and girls. Like wildfire, COVID 19 has spread to all parts of the world showing that ours is indeed a small world with little or no boundaries. As of 10th July 2020, there were 12. 6 million confirmed cases of COVID 19 with 561,764 deaths reported in 216 countries, areas and territories[1]. In Nigeria, there were 31,323 confirmed cases with more than 709 deaths[2]  with 12,795 discharged.

The COVID 19 pandemic led to a lockdown, which paralyzed economic activities in both formal and informal sectors. The implication of such paralysis included the loss or reduction of household incomes, government revenue and attendant ability to meet statutory responsibilities. Though the pandemic is global some categories of persons/sectors are more affected. For example, the informal sector employs about 80% of Nigerians, and is mainly made of daily paid workers who were worse hit by the lockdown. It is pertinent to mention that because most women in Nigeria are employed in the informal sector, the COVID 19 lockdown has impacted more negatively on them than their male counterparts. According to the UN Secretary General “compounded economic impacts are felt especially by women and girls who are generally earning less, saving less, and holding insecure jobs or living close to poverty”[3]

Related to the issue of poverty, is the nutrition status of the woman. Good nutrition is fundamental for good health of mother and child. Nutrition is among the causes of anemia, and anemia is a major concern among women, leading to increased maternal mortality and poor birth outcomes as well as reductions in work productivity. Over half (58%) of women age 15-49 have some degree of anemia. Twenty-eight percent each are mildly anemic and moderately anemic, and 2% are severely anemic (NPC and ICF, 2019)[4]. The COVID-19 may have led to higher proportion of malnourished women, girls and children.

COVID 19 did not make it easy for women to access and utilize reproductive health facilities especially as the logistics of getting to health facilities were negatively impacted. This situation could have worsened the already high maternal mortality rate of 556 (CI: 484-629) deaths per 100,000 live births.

The likely effect of the COVID 19 pandemic on the delivery of contraceptives is better imagined. Already Nigeria is experiencing low contraceptive prevalence rate and unmet needs. The contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) for modern method is 12% for married women, while for sexually active unmarried women, only 28% are using a modern method. The unmet needs for family planning are as high as 20% in some parts of the country. The implication of limited access to commodities and services includes higher level of STIs due to unprotected sex, unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, maternal mortality and unwanted pregnancies.

The lockdown due to the pandemic has also made it impossible for schools to resume. In the absence of schooling, more girls are likely to drop out of school and other consequences could include early marriage and high fertility, morbidity and maternal mortality, abortion, VVF, low self- esteem and initial at attending to personal healthcare.

Yet another effect of COVID19 on women and girls is the noticeable increase in gender-based violence ranging from rape, physical and emotional assault, some of which has resulted in the loss of lives. Recent reportage revealed that GBV transcended age, economic, educational, ethnic classification of victims and more often women and girls are the victims.

It is heartwarming and noteworthy that in putting the BREAKS to COVID-19, and ensuring the Safeguard of the Health and Rights of Women and Girls”, the present government has initiated numerous programmes that can mitigate practices that negates the right of women and girls. Some of these programmes include:

  1. The BESDA project: Better Education Service Delivery Programme for Result (BESDA P-for-R) is a World Bank Funded Programme aimed at reducing the number of out-of-school children in seventeen (17) states of the federation[5].
  2. Strengthening of health system to respond to Covid-19 pandemic –laboratories, PPEs, hospitals have been put in place. Also, NCDC has been strengthened to generate Covid-19 data to inform measures to curb the spread.
  3. COVID-19 Economic stimulus:  The Federal Government announced it has approved a total stimulus package of N2.3 trillion to cushion the effect of coronavirus pandemic on the economy. The package is expected to address the needs of both formal and informal sectors (as we noted earlier women tend to dominate in the informal sector).
  4. Contribution to Family planning projects: it is no longer news that the various levels of government has continued to support the supply of contraceptives through budgetary allocations either as direct investment or counterpart funds

For us in NPC, we shall continue to pursue our mandate of generating demographic, health and social economic data for championing the course of all especially for women and girls, as well as advice Government on related issues as our contribution towards ameliorating the adverse effect of the Pandemic against women and girls. We recognize that data collection disaggregated by age and sex is at the centre of most projects concerning women and girls. Hence, the NPC has continued to collaborate with UNFPA and other development partners, NGO and MDAs to generate data meant to address cases of women’s health, nutrition, educational attainment, sexual harassment through surveys and research endeavors such Nigeria Demographic and Health Surveys, Nigeria Education Data Surveys 2020, Verbal Autopsy and Social Autopsy surveys, Violence Against Children in Nigeria (2014) etc.

In addition, the NPC intends to account for every resident in Nigeria through the next Population and Housing Census. As precursor, the NPC has so far demarcated about 20 percent of the Country using the state-of-the-art technology to enable accurate and acceptable population and housing census that also provide disaggregated for programming for women and girls.

Another aspect of the Commission’s mandate that impacts positively on the theme of the 2020 World Population Day is the review of the National Policy on Population and Sustainable Development which is in its final stages. Efforts in this direction by NPC and relevant stakeholders have led to the incorporation of emerging issues that affect women and girls in the review of the National Population which should aid the monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of programmes aimed at gender equity and development.

Furthermore, the Commission is in the final stage of digitization of the Vital and civil registration system with the procurement and deployment of computers, tablets, generators and other peripherals to the 774 LGAs nationwide. The project is expected to takeoff in the last quarter of this year and will contribute immensely in registration of all vital events in an efficient manner which will boost availability of data for the programming on women and girls.

I wish to use the opportunity of today’s programme to thank all donors, especially, UNFPA for their technical and financial support over the years. I will also not forget to thank other stakeholders, especially members of the Population Technical Working Group and the Press for their unrelenting support in bringing to the forefront the course of women and girls – equality, human rights, etc. As we mark the WORLD POPULATION DAY today, it is beholding to understand that the right of women is the right for all.

I therefore wish to conclude by calling on all stakeholders to join hands to ensure that women and girls are protected, respected, catered for and given equal opportunity with men and boys.

Thank you very much.


[1] WHO (July 7, 2020) –  https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

[2] NCDC (July 7, 2020) – https://covid19.ncdc.gov.ng

[3]UN (2020) -Policy Brief:The Impact of COVID-19 on Women; 9 APRIL 2020

[4] National Population Commission (NPC) [Nigeria] and ICF. 2019. Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2018.

Abuja, Nigeria, and Rockville, Maryland, USA: NPC and ICF