The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Sunday advised President Muhammadu Buhari to give premium attention to primary healthcare and education as a means to eradicating poverty in the country.
The Executive Director of the Fund, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, gave the advice when he featured at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) forum in Abuja.
Osotimehin said that providing primary health delivery and education to young persons, especially the girl child, would contribute to the alleviation of poverty and ensure that families do not give birth to more children than they could cater for.
According to him, providing healthcare services in rural areas and free education to youths would close socio-economic gaps and uplift the nation.
The UNFPA boss added that if a woman is educated she would ensure stepping it down to her children.
“If a woman is educated and has a job she can decide on how many children she is going to have.
“UNFPA don’t prescribe number of children for families, but we are saying that the woman should be able to make the choice of the number she can afford to have and when she wants to have it.
“In that period she can go to work, she can make money, she can look after the children and she can be healthy, and I think that we want to underscore the fact of girls’ education,” he said.
The executive director stressed that basic education was required for young women before the age of 18, adding that at that stage they could understand the requirements of reproduction.
Osotimehin observed that the child delivered by a matured and educated woman had greater chances of survival.
“If you have a young lady who goes to school, stays in school and then marries after 18, what we know and have evidence is that the children they bear after 18 the survival is five times better than children that are born before 18.
“We know that the quality of life of that child is better; we also know that when she has that child after 18 the likelihood that the child will go to school is higher.
“It is basically breaking inter-generational poverty and women can be placed to play a very vital role in the society,’’ said the executive director.
Besides, Osotimehin said that the Fund had been able to reduce child and maternal mortality in the country, but much was yet to be done for total elimination.
He emphasised that proper strategising and investment would ensure a difference in improving the life of the citizenry.
“We have reduced maternal mortality but not to the level we are happy with, we have reduced child mortality.
“Some of these have happened only in pockets of Nigeria and it is not across on inclusive, there are still pockets of Nigeria where we have to do more work to reach people so that girls can go to school so that they don’t die giving life.
“We need to strategise and target investments in areas where we can make a difference,” said the UNFPA boss.
Despite all odds, Osotimehin expressed optimism that the challenges confronting the girl child education and reproductive health could be tackled if the government addressed the issues with high premium.