The critical role of journalists in bringing Sexual Reproductive Health matters to public attention, making government accountable and promoting good outcomes formed crux of discourse during a two day workshop for media executives on Sexual Reproductive Health Reporting organized by Marie Stopes International Organization Nigeria (MSION) on November 14 to 16 in Ibadan, the Oyo State Capital.

The workshop brought to the front burner the grey issues of unmet need, low use of contraceptives and its contribution to maternal mortality in Nigeria and other developing countries.

According to statistics, about 214 million women in most developing countries including Nigeria who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods. Marie Stopes International Organization Nigeria has been at the front-line of advocacy for access to safe, voluntary modern family planning methods, which has
been described as a human right.

Welcoming participants at the workshop, Mr Emmanuel Ajah, Director, Programme Operations, Marie Stopes International Organization Nigeria stated the organization’s vision is centered around a world
where every birth is wanted, and that for every child a woman has, it is by Choice not Chance.

He noted that the organization founded by Tim Black in 1976, rests on the success, expertise, dedication and incredible team of people in 37 countries of the world including Nigeria. Marie Stopes International
Organisation in Nigeria, supports public and private sector health facilities to strengthen the health system, improve capacity of providers and service delivery in sexual and reproductive health.

It operates clinics in Abuja, Lagos and Edo states where it delivers top notch, efficient and
patient centered sexual and reproductive health services.

Mr Ajah stated that with Nigeria’s population estimated at over 200 million people, high fertility rate put at 5.3 on average and 5.9 in rural areas, and high maternal mortality put at 451 per 100,000, contraception is a necessity to prevent unplanned pregnancies and reduce deaths due to unsafe abortion.

He stated that in 2018 alone, MSION reached 2.06 million clients with Family Planning while 8,500 estimated number of maternal deaths were averted through MSION services.

On her part, Ogechi Onuoha, Head, Marketing and Strategic Communications, Marie Stopes International Organization Nigeria while presenting the Overview of Sexual Reproductive Health(SRH) in Nigeria and Update on Contraceptive Technology, stated that access to safe, voluntary modern family planning is important in reducing poverty and pertinent in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

She noted that addressing the barriers to uptake of family planning through universal access to contraceptive information, services, enabling environment at the family, community and policy levels will improve women’s
abilities to build a better future for themselves, families and communities.

Onuoha told media practitioners that the Federal Government of Nigeria set a modern contraceptive prevalence rate target of 27% by 2020, and that to achieve this, a lot has to be done to address the barriers to uptake of
modern contraceptive methods, noting that increased uptake of modern family planning services will contribute to averting 30% of maternal mortality and 25% of Under-5 mortality, allowing more women to remain in school, get
educated and contribute to national development.

She reeled out the trends in fertility and current contraceptive use from the 2018 NDHS Report which shows that the demand for family planning among married women was 35.5%. Of this number, 16.6% used contraceptives while 18. 9% had unmet needs for family planning. Similarly, among sexually active unmarried women the demand for family planning is 85.4%, with only37% of the need satisfied leaving unmet the family planning needs of 48.4%.

She highlighted that Nigeria has policies and guidelines that support and promote family planning scale up but decried social barriers that exist which militate against family planning, such as opposition by partners, families and communities, cultural and religious setbacks, and lack of knowledge of what contraceptive methods are available, including incorrect perceptions about health risks of modern methods, fear of side effects,
access to health facilities, low supplies at healthcare centers, among several others.

To address these barriers, she called for more intensive and extensive advocacies, male involvement, deeper engagement with the media, cultural and religious leadership and other gatekeepers and key decision makers to
strengthen existing customs and practices, health promotion, strengthen the health system and make available human and material resources to meet the healthcare needs of people in the area of family planning

Also speaking at the workshop, Mr Emmanuel Ugoji a Media Consultant urged media practitioners to use their media platforms to educate Nigerians on the benefits of family planning and propagate the message that every birth
should be planned, children by choice and not chance.

Also making presentations on the Role of Journalists in Sexual and Reproductive Health, the duo of Angela Onwuzoo and Ijeoma Ukazu, members of the Network of Reproductive Health Journalists in Nigeria, NRHJN, stated that it behooves on the media, as Fourth Estate of the Realm to understand they have legal and ethical responsibilities which includes setting agenda for society’s development.

Ukazu stated that reproductive health encompasses health and wellbeing in matters related to sexual relations, pregnancies and births. To maintain good sexual and reproductive health, people need access to accurate information on safe, effective and affordable contraceptive methods of choice.

Angela Onwuzoo reiterated the critical role of the media in bringing SRH matters to public domain, engagement of
stakeholders and redirecting policy initiatives to positive outcomes through accurate and timely reports, monitoring of government’s progress toward achieving SRH goals, provision of latest data, helping debunk myths and
fallacies, among other duties.

Highpoint of the media workshop was the visit by journalists to public and private health facilities supported by MSION in various localities in Ibadan for firsthand assessment SRH services. From the site visits, the response was high, and same with the level of awareness on the need for family planning.

Thirty-three media executives drawn from the print, electronic and social media attended the workshop