By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
The acting Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC), Dr Eyitayo Oyetunji, said the COVID-19 pandemic beclouding the world has worsened the maternal mortality rate of 556 deaths per 100,000 live births in the country.
Speaking on Saturday at a press conference in Abuja to mark the 2020 World Population Day (WPD), the NPC boss said the day is an opportunity to take stock of the state of the world’s population, especially those often left behind, particularly women and girls and thereby determine the way forward to ensure their fundamental human rights are upheld.
Oyetunji, said this year’s theme of the WPD — Putting the brakes on COVID-19: “How to Safeguard the Health and Rights of Women and Girls Now”, is an indication that women and girls were worst affected by the pandemic.
He averred that COVID-19 had impeded women’s access to reproductive health facilities, especially as logistics of getting to health facilities became negatively impacted.
He said that the COVID-19 lockdown had paralysed the informal sector of the economy, which women were mainly employed in.
“Although the pandemic is global, some categories of persons are more affected, for example, the informal sector employs 80 per cent of Nigerians, and it is mainly made of daily paid workers who are worse hit by the lockdown.
“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 worry over the state of poverty among women, which resulted to anaemia occasioned by malnutrition.
He identified anaemia as a major cause of maternal mortality, saying over half of women from the age of 15 to 49 suffer from anaemia.
He assured that the commission will continue to collaboration with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and other development partners to generate data to address cases of women’s health, nutrition, educational attainment and sexual harassment, through surveys and researches as Nigeria Demographic and Health Surveys.
On her part, Mrs Ulla Muller, the UNFPA Country Representative, called for synergy to end Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs) against women and girls.
Muller, who spoke virtually condemned the family bias against the girl child and favour for the son, saying violations against the girl child were carried out with the consent of parents.