ISLAMABAD: Only around a third of married women use contraceptives in the country but the large gap is in part due to a lack of supply of contraceptives at both public and private health facilities and pharmacies, a new study on family planning in Pakistan revealed.
The “Landscape Analysis of Family Planning Situation in Pakistan” launched in Islamabad on Thursday showed that of an estimated 31 million married women of reproductive age (15-49 years) in Pakistan, only 8.1 million currently use modern contraceptives.
However, if potential users with unmet needs are encouraged to use modern contraceptives, the study estimates this figure could double to 17.2 million, raising Pakistan’s modern contraceptive prevalence rate (mCPR) from 26.1 per cent currently to 55.5 per cent.
The study, conducted by the Population Council with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, noted that while 55 per cent of married women of reproductive age have tried at least one contraceptive method at some point in their lives, only 35 per cent are currently using any method.
Moreover, fewer than 26 per cent use modern contraceptive methods, the study says. Worryingly, discontinuation rates are especially high for the intrauterine device (IUD), while use of hormonal methods is either stagnant or declining.
Dr Zeba Sathar, the country director for Population Council, disclosed that owing to the lack of contraceptive use, as many as 4 million unplanned pregnancies occur in Pakistan every year and consequently there are around 2.2 million abortions.
Pointing to the gap in contraceptive usage, she said that an estimated 9 million potential users cannot use family planning due to lack of awareness, communication, information, and service provision. She emphasised that better quality services are necessary to manage side effects of contraceptives which compel many users to give up family planning prematurely.
The signs among men were encouraging with almost three million additional current contraceptive users from 2007 to 2013. However, Pakistan still faces a number of challenges to increase modern contraceptive use and achieve FP2020 goals.
Apart from the lack of awareness for the public to use contraceptives, there is a daunting gap in the supply of these instruments in the public and private sector.
Among the key issues hampering supply and service is a semi-functional public health sector which is not fully responsible for family planning in its service package, along with sub-optimal provision of family planning in the private sector said MNA Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho.
She supported the report’s recommendation to rapidly expand available channels of service delivery.
Dr Wyn Bubnash, of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged to continued support to family planning in Pakistan.
Usage among youngsters
For the first time, the study broke the norms and focused on unmarried adolescents between the ages of 16-20. For this purpose the study interviewed young boys and girls both in and out of school about family planning.
In their responses, boys and girls held very positive view about family planning and were willing to adopt it regardless of gender, schooling status, and rural/urban residence. They considered family planning important and necessary for maternal and child health, better care of children, better schooling opportunities for children, and to afford expenses more easily.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2016.