Asma'u Halilu

The United Nation Population Fund UNFPA says it will continue to partner with Kaduna State Government to improve access of women and girls to healthcare and education.

The Executive Director, UNFPA Professor  Babatunde Osotimehin stated this during an advocacy visit to the State Governor,  Nasiru El-Rufai in Kaduna.

Professor Babatunde said there was important to increase the acceptance of family planning services in the state as a way of addressing issues of girl-child education and early marriage.

Professor Osetimehin said through an improved education for the girl child, the negative implication of adolescent pregnancy like school drop-out and increased incidence of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) would be addressed.

Professor Osetimehin further stated that adolescent pregnancy is generally not a deliberate choice of the girl child, and therefore should be discouraged

He commended the Kaduna state government for its projects and focus on health but added that it should also be about “about the girls’ education, right of girls and access to information.”

“The major issue is educating the girl-child, making sure she goes to school and she stays there until she’s 18 before contemplating getting married or getting pregnant,” adding that it was important to keep “engaging community and religious leaders to make them understand that girls are worthwhile investments, to invest in their health and education and once you do that, things will improve.”

In his response, Governor El-Rufai said, the state was determined to reduce infant and maternal mortality through various initiatives including immunisation.

He added that government was also supporting programmes to enlighten the people on child spacing.

“As you deploy your resource and effort to Nigeria, bear in mind where the real problems are, by helping Nigeria focus on the states that have the greatest need, the governor said”.

He noted that the state had been in partnership with UNPFA for many years particularly in the areas of reproductive and maternal health, treatment and rehabilitation of women with fistula.

Professor Babatunde Osetimehin’s, advocacy visit to Kaduna State is part a greater visit to northern Nigeria, where he has been speaking on improving girl-child education.

He expressed sadness that the north is the worst hit in terms of poverty, illiteracy level, maternal and child mortality rates, and appealed to the United Nations to focus its intervention programmes to the most vulnerable states and regions in Nigeria.

Rafat S.