Political turmoil and widespread poverty make the collection of reliable statistics about quality of life in Nigeria difficult. While other countries in Africa have shown improvements in social indicators such as poverty level, Nigeria's remain dismal, reflecting the state of health, education, and sanitation for most Nigerians.
The transition from military rule to democracy, begun in 1999, has failed so far to result in concrete improvements in livelihood among Africa's largest population. Approximately 70 percent of this massive population, nearly half of which is under the age of 15, lives on less than $1 U.S. dollar a day. Organized and violent crime due to ethnic tensions, drug-trafficking, and contention in the oil industry make daily life a struggle for many.
The average Nigerian will live to be just 47 years old and will most likely live in poverty, relying on either traditional agriculture or employment in the oil industry. An estimated 13 percent of children will die before the age of five, and those who make it to adulthood face a growing HIV/AIDS pandemic.
For a Nigerian woman, quality of life is affected by pervasive gender inequalities and risks related to pregnancy and childbirth: she will have an average of six births during her lifetime, and face a one in 18 chance of dying from related causes due, in part, to the fact that skilled birth attendants are present at barely one-third of births. Accessing health care is a struggle for everyone in Nigeria, however, as there is only one doctor for every 3,000 people.
The HIV/AIDS pandemic, which has already left at least 930,000 children orphaned, and the high rates of maternal death and disability, are outstanding public health issues in Nigeria. A high incidence of unsafe abortion is driven by legal restrictions and social stigma, while an extremely low rate of contraceptive use contributes to an estimated 1.4 million unintended pregnancies each year.
In response to the growing HIV/AIDS pandemic, the Nigerian government launched a program in 2004 that will provide much-needed drugs to many Nigerians with HIV but can nowhere near address the growing HIV/AIDS infection rate. Among Nigerian youth and adolescents, a persistent lack of contraceptive use (owing in part to misconceptions about effectiveness and side-effects) as well as a dearth of knowledge about sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, continue to fuel the spread of disease.
PPFA in Nigeria
The work of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) in Nigeria is focused on the northern region, where reproductive health services and education are extremely limited due to a lack of skilled health providers, strong cultural and religious taboos around sexuality, widespread poverty, and unreliable infrastructure.
The strong Muslim presence in northern Nigeria necessitates sensitivity in approaching reproductive health issues. We are implementing a communications campaign designed to reach 15 million adults and youth in the region with accurate, up-to-date information and positive messages about reproductive health. The campaign includes a popular radio show, face-to-face outreach in communities, and media advertising.
In order to reduce the incidence of maternal death and disability in the region, we are providing four local organizations with grants and technical assistance to increase access to family planning and safe abortion services, HIV counseling and testing, and sexuality education, and to strengthen interest in and commitment to reproductive health among the Nigerian government and public. The assistance we provide to these organizations includes helping clinics design medical protocols, setting up HIV testing procedures that are confidential, procuring equipment and supplies such as HIV testing kits and contraceptives, and gaining the support of local leaders for sexuality education campaigns.
In 2006, PPFA began a partnership with Dr. Benjamin Dikko, a primary care physician working in the northeastern capital state of Gombe, Nigeria, where women are at very high risk of being harmed by an unsafe abortion. Dr. Dikko is one of the few doctors working in the capital who is courageous enough to continue providing safe abortion services openly, despite considerable religious and social stigma.
With PPFA's support, Dr. Dikko's abortion clinic has been renovated and restocked with crucial supplies for continuing safe abortion services. Since improvements in the clinic's building and quality of care have been made, the number of clients served has risen from 112 to 615 annually, and the number of returning clients with post procedure complaints has dropped from 16 in 2006 to just three in 2007.
PPFA continues to work closely with local nongovernmental organizations and doctors just like Dr. Dikko in order to increase the quality of health care services available and ensure that access to such services is protected.