The Population Council in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has kicked off a project aimed at generating political will and commitment within the incumbent and future governments to ensure universal coverage of family planning services in Pakistan.
Members of the project titled “Socho, Badlo, Amal Karo” also aims to discuss population issues with the political parties so that they could include it in their manifestos in the upcoming elections. It also envisages using the mass media and social media to promote awareness and deepen understanding of the important linkages of population issues with family well being, poverty, health, education and economic betterment.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Dr Ali Mohammad Mir, the project director, said despite high growth rates, population issues in Pakistan have generally received less attention.
He said that Pakistan’s current population is 178 million, making it one of the world’s most rapidly growing countries.
Meanwhile, according to the United Nations’ projections, Pakistan’s population is estimated to grow to 240 million in 2030, 275 million by 2050 and 325 million by the end of the century.
Dr Mir said earlier policy statements reflected national priorities and to a large extent, the Population Policy 2002 was the first document reflecting the country’s intended objectives about fertility and population growth.
“But unfortunately little has changed, and while there were some improvements in the beginning of 1990s and a sharp increase of contraceptive use between 1991- 2001, there has been stagnation since then,” he said.
Dr Mir said the Ministry of Population Welfare was dissolved in 2010 under the 18th Amendment and after that no strong champions within the government or in civil society have emerged with a commitment to creating awareness on population issues.
“Unmet needs for family planning, closely spaced births and unwanted pregnancies are all closely related to maternal and child health, but this has not really infused into health circles.”
Dr Rizwana Chaudhry, Head of Gynecology Department at the Holy Family Hospital (HFH), Rawalpindi, said that Pakistan’s population explosion was the major cause of high maternal mortality rates.
She said that the amount of money spent on family planning is not producing the required results and the situation is deteriorating day by day. It is because the policymakers are not always health professionals, and the policies that are put in place, ignoring the ground realities and are thus unworkable, she added.
“Elections are around the corner and all political parties are busy planning their strategy and updating their manifestos. Therefore, it is a request to all of them to put the health of the mothers and children of Pakistan at the top of their agenda,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 21st, 2013.
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