CITIZENGO, a Spanish organisation has come under severe attacks in Nigeria.
Project Alert, a non-governmental organisation based in Abuja, Nigeria with offices in the 36 states of the federation, said on Tuesday, May 21, this year, police officers allegedly raided Marie Stopes Clinic in Lagos,
According to the NGO, health workers and patients were allegedly harassed, and at the end of the day, the officers took away files containing confidential information of clients.
This writer notes that Marie Stopes offers free and affordable family planning services to women and men, pregnancy tests, pre and post-natal care, treatment and services for sexually transmitted infections (STI), HIV testing and ultrasound and laboratory services.
However, Gabriel Akinremi, the chief information officer of CLEEN Foundation, AN ARM OF Project Alert, the staff of the clinic are trained offer counseling and treatment especially to those who cannot afford the costs at private hospitals.
His words: “To raid a centre that provides such services is sending a message to women and girls as well as men and boys that they are not safe in health centres and that they don’t deserve access to quality health services without fear or judgment”.
This is happening in a country that contributes 10% to the global burden of maternal deaths ranking fourth after Sierra Leone, Chad and the Central African Republic.
Safe spaces where women can access confidential and non-judgmental sexual and reproductive health services are vital and we don’t have enough of them to reduce the risk of maternal deaths.
Just before the raid in Lagos, the Minister of Health was testifying before the Nigerian Senate about the overburdened health system, the deplorable state of General Hospitals in the country and the need to revitalize the tertiary and primary health care system in Nigeria.
Women and girls are dying from preventable deaths because of lack of access to quality sexual and reproductive health services. Recently released NDHS 2018 data state: “Unmet need for family planning declined from 20% in 2008 to 16% in 2013 before increasing to 19% in 2018.”
Family planning is the conscious choice by people to limit or space the number of children they have through the use of contraception. And 19% of married women in Nigeria have an unmet need for family planning services, according to the survey.
Marie Stopes shouldn’t be punished for offering a spectrum of services, including family planning, to those who need and want it, especially women, married and unmarried.
The work being done by organizations like Marie Stopes is necessary to dispel myths, provide counseling on the right modern method of birth control and help women and men space their children.
The National Strategic Health Development Plan 2018 – 2022 recognizes the importance of this work, which is why one of its pillars is to “Promote universal access to comprehensive quality sexual and reproductive health services throughout the life cycle and reduce maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent morbidity and mortality in Nigeria.”
Marie Stopes’ work is supporting the government in making sure Nigeria can achieve the targets to reduce morbidity and mortality, which means improving the health and wellbeing of women and girls in Nigeria. We should be celebrating their efforts, not intimidating them.
Ten percent (10%) of maternal deaths in Nigeria is due to unsafe abortion. Access to safe abortion is restricted in Nigeria, and can only take place in circumstances where a woman’s life is at risk.
Even though safe abortion services are restricted, access to post-abortion care (a service for women and girls who have medical complication as a result of unsafe abortion) is not restricted. Nigerian laws and policies uphold women and girls’ rights to post-abortion services, a much needed service that Marie Stopes provides.
Services providers who are implementing these policies and guidelines should not be subjected to harassment and intimidation for performing their jobs. These healthcare workers are providing care and saving lives; actions that should be praised and promoted.
These efforts to demonize and block access to legal services are being funded in Nigeria by a Spanish organisation called CitizenGO.
CitizenGo is a partner to an SPLC designated hate group World Congress of Families and the city of Madrid has banned their …