So far I have been documenting family planning in Muslim communities in Northern Nigeria. This next post brings us back together with Thank-God Okosun and PPFA’s activities in an evangelical Christian community in Gboko, Benue State. The NKST (Nongo u Kristi u k Sudan hen Tiv) Church, whose headquarters we visited, has 127,115 members distributed among 298 well established congregations. As Nigeria provides little to no health care service for its citizens, the church had taken over this responsibility by being a health care provider; 9 hospitals and 123 primary health centers are managed by NKST.
The highly restrictive religious bias against reproductive health issues is a serious cause for concern in Nigeria. Most religious organizations view issues of reproductive health, particularly issues of sexuality and family planning, as immoral. Seven years ago PPFA was able to partner with the NKST church in altering this cultural and religious perception. Family planning, sex education and post abortion care are now accepted throughout the church and the fact that the church has a well established network of hospitals and clinics has made this PPFA project an effective one for reaching a large number of potential clients.
We arrived at the church headquarters as a large thunderstorm was brewing. The church compound is quite large, encompassing schools for both primary and secondary education, as well as those that train nurses and midwives and support several clinics.
As is the custom, we paid an honorary visit to the head pastor of the church upon our arrival. I photographed him by dim window light as there was no electricity in the building.
PPFA and Packard also made an advocacy visit to the leadership of NKST church to honor Rev. Inyonogie in appreciation for his contribution to the achievements of the family planning project. Here he is pointing to a painting of the founder of the NKST church.
A recess at the primary school in the church compound.
In the church. congregants are singing hymns before the start of the official PPFA program.
Church officer organizing PPFA donated contraceptive commodities. The materials also include MVA kits and Misoprostol. Manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) is a fast and safe way to empty the womb using a large syringe and cannula. It can be used to help a woman who has had a miscarriage or abortion that was not complete. Misoprostol is also used for incomplete abortions or miscarriages.
Prophylactics that will be distributed to the congregants.
Since the community is rather self contained ample opportunities for reproductive health care counseling exist.
The program takes advantage of normal everyday activities to distribute condoms. Go to the seamstress to get a dress made or an alteration and you also get a lecture on birth control and some prophylactics.
Similarly, go to the hairdresser, get counseling and free prophylactics.
A couple obviously anticipating using their new contraceptives.
Patients waiting to see health care worker at family planning clinic.
At the clinic, a couple receives counseling on family planning and they choose a method.
The introduction of family planning into a conservative religious community is no small achievement; changing cultural perceptions is a formidable task and we have to look no further than our own country to see how difficult it is to make lasting change. Packard and PPFA have successfully partnered in having family planning become a totally accepted way of life in the NKST communities.