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Nigerian Fertility Rate and Issues

I originally wrote this as a comment to a previous blog post comment, but it turned into a monster of a comment so I’m turning it into a post:

Supplementing more information of fertility rates: The current Nigerian population estimate as of July 2013 is 174,507,539 according to the CIA World Factbook ( The fertility rate is 5.31 children born per woman, the 13th highest after exclusively other African nations with the exception of Afghanistan in 8th place ( The trends in fertility rate for Nigeria over the past few years has proven more difficult to track down, the World Bank giving statistics that it is decreasing and staying the same over the same time period at different parts of their website.

Although a bit dated, BBC has a cute article about President Goodluck Jonathan urging his people to use birth control in light of the population growth. This cannot have been a politically popular (as alluded to in the article) move or topic for Nigerians (or at least the Nigerian men who often make the executive decision for their wives). This is the same country that brought us the politician who ran on the platform that polio vaccination was a western plot to sterilize Nigerians (back in the day when polio was eradicated everywhere but in Nigeria, and ended up spreading back to other countries down the rivers as a result). The president went on to recommend that people have only as many children as they can afford. As we learned in class, that is just not how that works. More babies=more chances for a surviving retirement fund. (Life expectancy is 211th at 52.46 in a 2013 estimate, 26.7% of children under 5 in 2008 were underweight, Nigeria is number 1 in the world for number of AIDS/HIV related deaths, and degree of risk of infectious diseases is listed as “very high”).

The article also sights the President’s admission that the root of concern is that planning parenthood, so to speak, is highly unpopular due to how religious the country is (a common story of “both Christians and Muslims, and even traditionalist and all the other religions, believe that children are God’s gifts to man”), making it a very sensitive issue.  Religious tensions are a major problem in Nigeria, 50% of Nigerians are Muslim, 40% Christian, and the last 10% practice indigenous beliefs.  The Biafran War (the Nigerian Civil War) found some root in religious tensions between the Muslim north and Christian south, and if my memory serves, even the polio example I raised earlier roots in a claim that the sterilization plot is from the Christian west, to control the Muslim Nigerians.  In any case, it is easy to see how the country is set up to make population control a very difficult issue to discuss and tackle.

Nigerian population pyramid also from the Factbook:


  1. dillard dillard

    This issue seems to be imbedded in more religious beliefs rather than a true political issue sans religion. With birth rates this high there must be a way to curb this number but must figure out a way to change mentalities concerning birth rates and its resulting in great numbers of starving children. Health rates need to rise and blight must be prevented. If their naivete has resulted in further sickness we need to work to eradicate this even further. Birth Control must be increasingly promulgated and disseminated.

  2. gjeong gjeong

    This might be a foolish question, but what about one child policy like China? Although it recently changed its policy, I feel like it can somehow help the issues with population in Nigeria. However,as dillard also pointed out, the related issues are caused mainly by religious beliefs, I am not sure what would be the best answer.

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