With the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) revealing that 2.2 million abortions are carried out in Pakistan every year, the need to cater to a persisting unmet demand for contraceptives in the country becomes all the more important. There can be no denying the difficulties a Pakistani woman faces as she has had to abort an unwanted pregnancy simply because of the failure of the authorities to provide her the contraceptives.
Despite being an early acceptor of the family planning programme in the 1950s, the contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) — the percentage of married women of reproductive age (15-49 years) practising modern contraception methods — in Pakistan is not satisfactory. With a full-fledged ministry emerging in the country by 1990, the CPR increased from 5 to 12 per cent, and moved into the range of 30 to 33 per cent by 2000, thanks mainly to the lady health workers. However, the following decade saw the CPR stagnating, with the latest estimates placing it at around 35 per cent — the lowest in the region.
And in order to meet its family planning commitments made at the London’s Family Planning Summit in 2017, Pakistan is required to raise the CPR to 50 per cent by 2020, by committing additional resources, raising the per capita expenditure on family planning, and bringing in a programmatic refocus to address the information and services needs. There exists unmet need for both the spacing and limiting of births, and the extent of each of these varies by women’s age, parity and education. The low levels of contraceptive use and the large numbers of unwanted pregnancies point to the need to provide quality accessible family planning services in the country. Access to family planning services is a fundamental right which is crucial to slowing and reversing unsustainable population growth.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2018.