A woman demonstrates the female condoms from the pulpit of a local Evangelical church

One in six Africans is Nigerian. Yet in this populous sub-Saharan African country, access to health services, particularly in the north, remains limited. To fill this gap, Planned Parenthood Global works with Nongu u Kristu u ken Sudan hen Tiv (NKST), a local evangelical church group.

Eight years ago, when the partnership began, NKST faced a public health crisis: women were dying. They were dying in childbirth from lack of skilled delivery and emergency obstetric care, and they were dying from unsafe, clandestine abortions. NKST ran a small hospital, which at the time offered basic health services and HIV/AIDS treatment, but not comprehensive reproductive health care, as the church did not condone the use of contraception.

NKST’s clergy held many conversations with Planned Parenthood Global to design public health interventions to address their community’s high rate of maternal mortality. They weighed their opposition to family planning against their opposition to women dying. In the end, they decided the best way to reduce maternal deaths and complications from unsafe abortion would be to improve women’s access to family planning. They focused in particular on integrating family planning and HIV/AIDS services: promoting condoms for the prevention of both unintended pregnancy and contracting HIV; offering HIV tests to women seeking reproductive health care; and offering birth control methods to people seeking HIV/AIDS treatment.

And, because not everyone can access a health center, they trained health outreach workers to distribute pills, condoms, and counseling at local beauty salons, job training centers, and local filling stations. Over the course of the partnership, NKST has seen fewer obstetric emergencies and has worked to train smaller private clinics.