Islamabad : Increased investment in family planning programmes could accelerate Pakistan’s progress across social, economic and environmental areas of sustainable development.
This was discussed at a meeting held with media persons on Pakistan’s population challenge, hosted by the Population Council in Islamabad with the support of United Nations Population Fund.
The speakers said that Pakistan cannot meet 12 out of 17 Sustainable Development Goals if it continues to grow at its current pace of 2.4 per cent. They said that in Pakistan, every $1 spent on contraceptive services saves $2.50 in maternal and new-born healthcare.
“One out of three children is out of school in Pakistan. Our population is growing so fast that Pakistan can’t achieve Universal Primary Education until 2075,” said Saima Ali Shah, Project Director Population Council.
She said that Pakistan is one of the third most water-stressed countries in the world. Per capita water availability in Pakistan has dropped from 5,600 cubic meters at the time of independence to the current level of 861 cubic meters, and is projected to further decline. “If Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) rises from current 34 per cent to 54 per cent, it can save 4,900 mothers and 140,000 infants from dying,” she said.
She said that 40 million fewer Pakistanis would be living in poverty and only 1.6 million children would be out of school if Pakistan was closer to the fertility levels of the rest of the region (2.1 per cent). “To harness its demographic dividend, Pakistan will need to break out of stagflation and into sustained growth; creating more and better jobs for women and men; and profiting from the “youth bulge” by investing. By 2050, 224 million more people will be looking for work.”
In February 2015, the government of Pakistan adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a unanimous parliamentary resolution. This strategic shift put considerable responsibility on the government and its development partners to address the unmet agenda of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) while initiating the SDGs through development cooperation for strengthening public institutions, social policies and planning development programmes.
Pakistan ranks 152 among 182 countries in the 2019 Human Development Index. Rapid population growth is one of the biggest challenges confronting Pakistan that impedes achieving sustainable development goals in the country.
One of the SDGs, pertaining to good health and well-being, aims to ensure universal access to reproductive healthcare services, including family planning—considered one of the most cost-effective targets.
Director Programs for Reproductive Health Dr Ali Muhammad Mir said that investing in family planning is a necessary step for achieving many of the SDGs. He said that voluntary family planning programs play an important role in reducing fertility desires and enabling couples to realize their reproductive rights and intentions.
“Family planning use minimizes life-threatening complications for mothers and their children by reducing fertility-related risks. These risks include pregnancies in which the mother is too young or old, pregnancies that are too closely spaced and too many (more than three children), and pregnancies that end in unsafe abortion.”
Talking about the new narrative around the population planning, he said that based on the recommendations of the Council of Common Interest, the new national narrative on population was shared builds on the concept of Balance/Tawazun where parents have the right to freely and responsibly decide the number and spacing of their children.
“They must fulfil the fundamental rights of their children and family by maintaining a Balance/Tawazun between their family size and resources. The Government and society have the responsibility to facilitate parents to achieve this balance by providing universal access to family planning information and services, thereby achieving sustainable development.”