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Unintended Births on Rise in Nigeria, says Study

A new study says unintended births are on the rise among young Nigerian women. What'smore, early marriage and early motherhood remain common.

The findings are reported by the US-based Guttmacher Institute and the Women's Health and Action Research Center in Benin City. They say despite large improvements in young women's education between 1990 and 2003, there have not been major gains in sexual and reproductive health awareness.

Akinrinola Bankole, director of international research at the Guttmacher Institute, is a co-author of the study. From New York, he describes the findings of the study as a mixed bag.

"It's encouraging in the sense that young people are becoming more educated than before…. And also we see some increase in contraceptive use, which means they are making an effort to protect themselves against unintended pregnancy and SDI, including HIV," he says.

On the other hand

"They are not doing that as successfully as they should, given the fact that many of them are becoming pregnant and having children when they actually did not want to," he says.

There are some indications as to why this is happening.

Bankole says, "One is that young people lack the kind of information they need. For instance… between the years 1990 and 2003…the proportion of young people that know where to obtain contraceptive methods has declined from 31 percent to 18 percent. That is a dangerous trend."

What about government efforts to promote sexual and reproductive health?

"I believe that there is what is called family life education in some of the states. But the extent to which this is taught is not very clear," he says.

The study says, "Government policies to promote sexual and reproductive health information…for young Nigerians exist on paper but have not been successfully implemented."

Bankole says, "Secondly, we believe that there is a need for better sex education in schools in order to inform young people about how to adequately protect themselves."

Lack of information has consequences

"If we do not curb the trend of increasing unintended births…and pregnancy, then we might find a situation where young people drop out of school…. We might find their life ambitions are being cut short," he says.

He says while it would require a major government investment of funds to prevent these problems, it would still be cheaper than dealing with them once they occur.