The country’s growing population is fast outpacing its resources and the state’s ability to provide social safety nets for its citizens.
This was stated by Minister for Health Makhdoom Shahabuddin while chairing the first National Steering Committee meeting on Birth Spacing in Pakistan here on Friday. The meeting was attended among others by Special Assistant to Prime Minister Begum Shahnaz Wazir Ali and federal secretaries of health and population, representatives of all provincial health departments and international agencies.
Shahabuddin said the country’s population registered a six-fold increase in the first 60 years of its existence and now individuals and families are finding it difficult to cope with the burden of financial insecurity and rising prices. He emphasized the need for the ministries of health and population welfare to work in unison towards attaining a common goal. “We need to ensure that safe services for birth spacing are available at reasonable costs and in a manner that is culturally acceptable,” he stated.
Shahnaz Wazir Ali called for a paradigm shift with regard to effective provision of birth spacing services. “We have to see how differently we can deliver these services,” she added, urging for re-defining the role of the provincial and district dovernments in this regard.
Earlier, while elaborating the work of the National Steering Committee on Birth Spacing, Secretary Health Khushnood Lashari said the committee will coordinate the national policy on the subject, oversee the conceptualization of a national plan for birth spacing that addresses the roles of different actors and oversee the implementation of current programmes and their scale up to meet the current unmet needs in this area.
Secretary Population Welfare Shaukut Durrani termed population growth a national issue. “Today our population stands at 170 million, and in the next five years, it will be 190 Million,” he said. He informed that the draft population policy 2010 has been finalized and is on the anvil. Secretary population emphasized the need to work closely with other sectors like health to attain optimal results.
Director General Health Prof. Rasheed Jooma said the Ministry of Population Welfare is providing 18 percent of the country’s birth spacing services whereas the Ministry of Health is delivering 17 percent of these services. Sharing some statistics, he said the country’s population growth rate is 1.9 percent and only 30 percent of the women currently use any contraceptive, with 22 percent of them using modern means of contraception. The Ministry of Health is providing these services through the Mother and Child Health and Lady Health Workers Programme, he informed.
Dr. Nabila Ali, Chief of Party, PAIMAN said the private sector and civil society needs to complement the work being done by the ministries of health and population. “We have to forge alliances and build partnerships to make headway in this area,” she said.
UNFPA representative Mr. Yuyu called for result-based management saying there was a need to operationalize the strategy and strengthen monitoring. Representative of USAID Janet Castillo made special mention of the work that the US sovernment is doing with the LHWs’ and MNCH programmes.
Representative of FALAH and DFID also participated in the discussion, as did representatives of all provincial health departments. They briefed about the delivery of birth spacing services in their respective provinces.
Five working groups have been formed by the committee to work on specific areas and make recommendations.