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- Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - From Print Edition


PESHAWAR: Speakers at a workshop on the importance of family planning and its link to the economic progress of the country said that family planning will enhance investment in human capital in the coming years and progress towards attaining benefits of demographic divide.


The workshop was held here on Tuesday on the in-depth study conducted on the state of family planning by Pathfinder International, an international organisation working in Pakistan and reproductive health in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).


Officials from Population Welfare Department, Health Department as well as representatives of national and international organisation working on family planning attended the workshop. In his introductory remarks, Dr Tauseef Ahmad, country representative Pathfinder said the study was an assessment aimed at ascertaining the state of family planning based on operations, progress made and shortcomings covering the period 2000-11.


He said several quantitative studies have done in recent past but it has missed the underlying system-wise issues which caused the sector’s poor performance. The study contains 9 units that examine the role and contribution of different stakeholders.


According to the study, the targets and goals related to family planning have not been achieved due to lack of clear policies, planning, a governance mechanism and limited coordination among relevant stakeholders. It also mentioned that coverage and access was found lacking as the departments of health did not own the programme.


A complex funding flow mechanism with delayed and insufficient releases caught the programme in a vicious cycle of low performance, supply shortages and stock-out. “It is unfortunate that neither the federal ministry of population welfare nor the planning division evolved any strategy to remedy the issue but rather remained at dagger-drawn,” the report stated.


The advocacy and interpersonal communication remained less audience oriented and less focused, while monitoring and evaluation and research support was weak and sporadic. The report said that the devolution of the population subject to the provinces has had the mixed result of defocusing the population issue from the national perspective.


To address the challenges, the report mentioned to revitalise the population welfare commission, revisit population policy 2010, rejuvenate provincial population steering committees, build ownership of family planning in departments of health and the population program by provincial governments.


It also recommended to revamp the planning process, ensure adequate allocation, improve coverage and access, overhaul monitoring and supervision system, tap the resources of public-private sector organisations and maintain commodity security and active support of all stakeholders.


Such efforts need effective backup of advocacy and promotional campaigning with an effective system of monitoring and feed back from beneficiaries. The participants of the workshop observed that political commitment was visible in the province and it would be continued to support the program. They, however, said further awareness of parliamentarians through seminars on importance of family planning should be done so that they could effectively influence their electorate. The importance of Local Bodies was also stressed particularly the involvement of female councillors


The experts opined that community based monitoring at grass roots level is needed and the district assembly meetings should be part of the accountability process. Besides, counseling sessions should be arranged at schools, colleges and universities. They also stressed active participation of media in promoting the family planning.


Secretary Population Welfare Department Khalid Hussain Gilani, Director General Fazl Nabi Khan, Dr Najma, Dr Hidayat, Dr Lubna Tajik of UNFPA, Dr Haris Ahmed, Director Programmes Pathfinder, were prominent among the participants.