On the sidelines of an interactive dialogue on population, the population chief at the Planning Division claimed that the government is confident that the supply of contraceptives being provided by a USAID programme which runs till June 2014 will be covered by the Pakistani government.
Speaking with The Express Tribune on Thursday after the Rutgers WPF Pakistan dialogue, titled Enabling Choices: Population Priorities for Pakistan, at a local hotel, Planning Division Population Chief Shahzad Malik said Pakistan has earmark Rs 2.3 billion for 2012-15 to procure contraceptives, but the money was not utilised. It will now be used for this purpose.
Since 2000, international organisations have been procuring contraceptives for Pakistan.
However, they have now expressed reservations over the efficiency of delivery of these contraceptives and have emphasised the need for the government to mobilise its national resources for the population programme in line with its commitment to Family Planning 2012 summit.
While commenting on the issue, David and Lucile Packard Foundation Senior Country Adviser Dr. Yasmeen Sabeeh said that although it is going to be a good initiative for the government to become self-reliant in procurement of contraceptives, “Its sustainability will require strong political commitment which is currently lacking”.
She said that despite the fact that international organisations have been procuring contraceptives for Pakistan since 2000, the county is still unable to improve its contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR).
She said that unsafe abortions are on the rise because of “supply and demand issues, lack of training of health workers to educate couples about the importance of contraception, and last but not the least, the quality of available contraceptive items,” she said.
She further said that Pakistan’s under-25 population is 65% of the total, due to which the involvement of youth is paramount for a sustainable Pakistan.
Sabeeh said that Pakistan is far removed from achieving International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) goals, which in itself is embarrassing for the country.
Rutgers WPF Pakistan Country Representative Qadeer Baig told The Express Tribune, “We are optimistic that in collaboration with civil society and young people government can address growing family planning needs in the country and will be able to continue the supply of necessary commodities after 2014.”
He said Rutgers WFP has launched its strategic plan 2014-2020 which has sharp focused on comprehensive sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR) education, youth-friendly services and gender-based violence by engaging government, civil society and the private sector.
Earlier, during the interactive dialogue, the speakers gave a wake-up call to the government to address rapidly growing population issues resulting in to endemic poverty, social injustice, an economic slowdown and environmental degradation in the country.
They urged the government that it is the right time to start considering population as a cross-cutting issue and bring this “much-neglected” issue to the top of the agenda.
Dutch Ambassador Marcel De Vink said, “Access to SRHR is necessary to sustainable human development in Pakistan.”
He also vowed to stay committed to empower women and eliminate gender-based violence.
He also called the private sector to play a more active role in the development sector and an immediate population census of Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2013.