Abuja - The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, on Wednesday said an effective and efficient family planning programme could reduce maternal and child mortality rate by 30 and 25 per cent respectively.
Onyebuchi said this in Abuja at the 2nd National Family Planning Conference tagged, "Population and National Development".
He said that family planning being one of the components of safe motherhood had been recognised globally as one of the "quick wins" for the reduction of maternal and child morbidity and mortality.
According to him, this has made it a key strategy for the attainment and sustainability of MDGs 4 and 5.
"In Nigeria, there has been an improvement in the maternal and child health indices with maternal mortality ratio of 545 per 100 000 live birth, under-5 mortality rate of 157/1000 live birth," he said.
Onyebuchi said the increasing access to utilisation of quality contraceptive commodities would go a long way in reducing the death of women and children.
He said it was against this backdrop that the Federal Government launched the policy on "Free Contraceptive Commodities Distribution" under the family planning in April.
The minister said the move was to improve financial access to family planning, especially for the teeming population of women and youths that resided in underserved areas.
"I am aware that implementation of this policy has led to a dramatic increase in demand for contraceptives in public health facilities.
"As part of the government commitment to sustain this intervention, the government in 2011 paid its counterpart fund of $3 million for the procurement of contraceptive commodities.’’
He said in spite of these laudable efforts by government, the area of human resource for service provision was still a challenge.
Onyebuchi said this necessitated the training of Community Health Extension Workers, noting that government remained committed to meeting the "unmet needs for reproductive health services and commodities, including family planning".
Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, the President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), stressed the need for proper enlightenment.
Oritsejafor was represented by Mr John-Kennedy Opara, the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission.
He said: "I believe that when the institutional and religious bodies involved are well informed and sensitised, they will be able to educate the masses.
"I believe that under proper education and sensitisation, it is not a question of breeding children; it is a question of giving birth to quality children that will help you to sustain the development of the country.
"We are for sustainability and where the culture of the country and of the society tries to run contrary to these views, we weigh the two options.
"I don’t think there will be problem if we can embark on the immediate sensitisation, education and collaboration with the church leaders," he said.
In his remarks, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar 111, pledged the support of traditional rulers in the country to the initiative.
Represented by Alhaji Sani Umar, the Sarkin Yakin of Gagi, Abubakar said they would continue to support any programme aimed at improving the wellbeing of its citizens, especially mother and children.
He assured that their role of enlightenment and bridging the gap between the service providers and the community would be sustained for a healthy community.
The traditional ruler said there was also need to strengthen the bonds of healthcare at all levels to ensure accessibility to health care.
Earlier, Dr Bright Ekweremadu, the Managing Director, Society for Family Health, said the society was working assiduously to improve access by ensuring that contraceptives were available at private sector outlets.