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Lack of political will, funding killing Pakistani women

ISLAMABAD: World Population Day is being observed by the international community since 1989 in order to focus on the urgency of population issues in the context of an overall development plan.The theme for 2012 is Universal Access to Heath Reproductive Services.

Pakistan does not fare too well in this department. In fact, it has one of the poorest maternal and health indices in the world, along with Ethiopia and Uganda.

A summit being organised by the United Kingdom government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to mark World Population Day will focus on bridging the gap between demand and supply for reproductive healthcare.

Furthermore, the summit is aimed to seek more investment in family planning to reduce maternal deaths and improve women’s health. On the occasion, a global movement will be launched to give an added 120 million women in the world’s poorest countries access to family planning information, services and supplies by 2020.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Country Representative Rutgers WPF, Qadeer Baig, said the summit would be a great opportunity to advance family planning. However, he added that the moment should be seized to talk about broader issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), in order to effectively improve the quality of life of people, especially in Pakistan.

“Separating family planning from broader SRHR rights will not help us achieve the goal of reducing maternal and child mortality,” said Baig, adding that the biggest challenges were to educate Pakistani youth about SRHR, decrease the maternal mortality rate, and bring uniformity among the provinces to overcome these issues collectively.

“In Balochistan talking about family planning and SRHR is considered as committing a sin due to social taboo,” he said.

Pathfinder International’s Country Director Dr Tauseef Ahmed told The Express Tribune that Pakistan’s population is estimated to double in around 36 years, putting tremendous stress on limited resources available for development and welfare purposes.

In comparison to our neighbours, such as India and Iran, Pakistan lags behind in achieving several millennium development goals (MDGs), including contraceptive prevalence rate, fertility rate, prevalence of poverty, female illiteracy, and maternal health.
Ahmed went on to explain that a lack of political will and funding has severely hampered Pakistan from achieving most MDGs, especially those related to family planning as progress remains inconsistent with the national requirement of MDG’s. No attention is given to several aspects of family planning, including contraceptive procurement, counseling to millions of women who want to adopt family planning methods, and quality of services, he added.

“We have committed a lot but funding support toward the achievement of these is quite insufficient. With this pace of growth and lack of family planning policy it is difficult for Pakistan to achieve the targets by 2015, rather it would require the next 10 years to do achieve these goals,” Ahmed said

Express Tribune