THE National Population Commission (NPC) says that the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the maternal mortality rate of 556 deaths per 100,000 live births in the country.
To mark the 2020 World Population Day (WPD), the Commission’s acting Chairman, Dr Eyitayo Oyetunji, told journalists on Saturday in Abuja that COVID-19 had impeded women’s access to reproductive health facilities, especially as logistics of getting to health facilities became negatively impacted.
The theme of this year’s WPD celebrations of WPD is, “Putting the brakes on COVID-19: How to Safeguard the Health and Rights of Women and Girls Now.”
Oyetunji said that the COVID-19 lockdown had paralysed the informal sector of the economy, where women were the bulk of the 80 per cent of Nigerians employed there.
He added that “it is pertinent to mention that because most women in Nigeria are employed in the informal sector, COVID-19 lockdown impacted more negatively on them than the male counterparts.”
The NPC boss expressed concern over the state of poverty among women, which resulted to anaemia occasioned by malnutrition.
He identified anaemia as a major cause of maternal mortality, and said that over half of women from the age of 15 to 49 suffer from anaemia.
He raised an alarm over the continued shutting down of schools due to the lockdown, “which has the possibility of making more girls to drop out of school.”
Oyetunji reiterated calls to mitigate the challenges of women and commended the Federal Government for initiating numerous programmes to end the practices that negate the rights of women and girls.
He said, “some of these programmes include the Better Education Service Delivery Programme for Result (BESDA) aimed at rescuing the number of out-of-school children in 17 states of the federation.”
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative, Mrs Ulla Muller, called for synergy to end Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs) against women and girls.
She condemned the family bias against the girl child and favour for the son, and noted that violations against the girl child were carried out with the consent of parents.
She said that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a setback in UNFPA’s progress in the fight against GBV and HTPs and called for renewed efforts by stakeholders “to change the narrative that one out of every three women has experienced one form of violence or the other.”