Pakistan is one of the countries having highest population growth rate which is alarming and if population growth is not checked, the country will continue to fall short on the needs and basic amenities of life for the population. The unchecked population explosion is a major factor behind rise in disappointment, depression and tension among masses.
Pakistan has the highest population growth rate in the world at around 2.03% and each family here in the country has 3.4 children on average. Health experts believe that if the population of the country continues to grow with the same rate (2.03%), it is likely to double in the next 34 years, making Pakistan 4th most populous country of the world; whereas land area will remain the same rather will be reduced due to residential plans.
It should be a great concern for the politicians in power that the population of Pakistan was 33 million in 1950 and its rank was 14th in the world. Today, it has reached around 180.71 million making Pakistan the 6th most populous country of the world whereas in terms of land area, it is 34th, and shares only 0.6% of the world area.
Pakistan cannot tackle the issues of economic development and poverty reduction without putting a check on high population growth, said Head of Community Medicine at CMH Lahore Medical College Professor Dr Muhammad Ashraf Chaudhry while talking to ‘The News’ in connection with World Population Day which is being observed today (on July 11) around the globe.
He believes that the rapid PGR in Pakistan is resulting in shortage of educational facilities, health services, food, living space, arable land, clean water, housing units, energy crisis, putting pressure on transportation, electricity, sewage, sanitation, and increase in unemployment, surge in food prices, land fragmentation, import of food, environmental degradation, overcrowding and congestion in households, squatter settlements, poverty, unrest, crimes, drug addiction as there are 9.6 million drug addicts in the country, urbanization being one of the highest in Asia, disease and suicide.
He said that fertility rate of Pakistan is highest and its Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (27%) is lowest even when compared to other Muslim countries like Turkey, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Iran, and Malaysia. Each year four million souls are being added to the country’s population which means adding the population of Albania or New Zealand.
The higher population growth rate means more people to feed, more families to house, more children to educate, and more people looking for gainful employment. It is important that the world population has grown slowly for most of the human history. It took some 1,800 years for the population to hit one billion. However, in the past half-century, population jumped from three to seven billion.
Dr. Ashraf said that major factors responsible for high PGR in Pakistan are high fertility, declining mortality, early marriages, early puberty, son preference, high Infant Mortality (69 per 1,000 live births), poverty (children are considered to be social and economic security), illiteracy especially of women and lack of women empowerment, religious constraints, beliefs, customs and traditions.
To a query, he said that in spite of billions of funds allocated to Ministry of Population Welfare, our contraceptive prevalence rate is not increasing since the last one decade; rather it has decreased from 36% to 27% at present. Whereas, in order to achieve replacement level of fertility in the country of two children per family, contraceptive prevalence rate must reach up to 60%, so we have a long way to go.
He added that surprisingly, no politician hungry of political power has ever raised any concern about the population explosion and its consequences. “Our leaders, the government and the opposition, should take some time off from personal attacks on each other and devote some of their attention to this issue.”
He said that the declining mortality trends coupled with high fertility rates produce more dependent population. There is increase in poverty from 22.3% to 40% in 2010-11. At least 62 million people live below poverty line, 45 million face severe food security and 30% can’t afford any health care in Pakistan where literacy rate is also one of the lowest in the Asia, he said.
He added that Maternal Mortality Rate (276 per hundred thousand live births) and Infant Mortality Rate (69 per 1,000 live births) in Pakistan are still one of the highest in the world. This reality makes family planning in Pakistan one of the most urgent causes that need immediate support and attention. “It is recommended that status of women in the society should be increased by providing educational and employment opportunities.”
Dr Ashraf suggested that the government should control population through legislation, as in China, where there is one-child family system. Age of the marriage should be raised to 25 years in case of males and 23 in case of females. If the marriages are postponed from the age of 16 to 20 to 21, the number of births would decrease by 20-30 percent. Ulemas should be recruited as family planning mobilisers to remove misconception of the people about family planning.
He believes that in order to create awareness among masses about the benefits of small family and negative impact of early marriages, all channels of communication, including electronic and print media, outdoor publicity and interpersonal communication should be utilised.
He said that this year the theme of World Population Day is, “Universal Access to Reproductive Health Services.” Reproductive health is at the heart of development and crucial to delivering the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) vision — a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.