Pakistan needs to control population growth

By Our Correspondent
September 26, 2023

Islamabad:With the World Contraception Day being marked today, experts have highlighted the issue of unmet contraceptive needs saying it affects millions of people in Pakistan.

They said Pakistan was the fifth most populous country in the world with a population of over 220 million people but despite commendable progress in various sectors, a considerable portion of our population still grappled with unmet contraceptive needs. The experts said over 21 per cent of married women who wish to avoid pregnancy in Pakistan do not have access to effective contraception - an issue that not only impacts individual lives but also exerts immense pressure on our socioeconomic systems.

They said the issue of unmet contraceptive needs is a multifaceted challenge. "Clinical concerns, societal constraints, and communication gaps are intertwined factors that hinder contraceptive access. Clinical facilities in remote areas may lack the necessary resources and trained staff, making it difficult for women to access contraceptives. Societal norms and cultural taboos can make open discussions about family planning a sensitive issue, further exacerbating the problem," a doctor said.

The experts said unmet contraceptive needs have far-reaching consequences. They said the issue contributed to a higher fertility rate, leading to rapid population growth, and posed significant risks, particularly for young mothers.

The experts said maternal mortality rates remained unacceptably high in Pakistan, primarily due to unintended pregnancies. They urged the government to establish comprehensive, well-implemented policies to ensure method availability and foster an enabling environment.

The experts said it is imperative for advocacy efforts to dismantle cultural barriers, reduce stigma, and promote awareness, facilitated by sufficient funding, trained healthcare professionals, and accessible facilities. "Collaborative efforts with civil society, international agencies, and community leaders are indispensable for creating a supportive family planning ecosystem," a doctor said.

The experts said the Delivering Accelerated Family Planning in Pakistan stands out as a cross-sectoral initiative by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office that had been making a significant impact since its inception in 2017.

They added that at the forefront of DAFPAK's outreach efforts was its communication platform, KhairKhwah, which disseminates vital information about family planning through electronic, print, digital and outreach channels and has not only transformed perceptions but also dismantled barriers to increase awareness and facilitate greater access to contraceptives.

The experts said we need comprehensive, intersectoral approaches that tackle not just the supply-side issues but also the demand-side barriers, such as cultural norms and lack of awareness.