“We cannot afford to be ignorant about population issues; it is an unfinished, huge agenda that is impacting every sphere of development in this country”
On the occasion of 20th anniversary of International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) (Cairo) conference this September, all countries are taking stock of progress made to achieve ICPD goals in their countries. We also need to reflect objectively what Pakistan has been able to achieve at the event of ICPD + 20. The country has passed through Demographic transition in late 90’s and had shown good progress to bring down the growth rate to 2.0% at that time. But what has been worrisome is the stalling of Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) and somewhat dipping plateau since then. The latest Population and Demographic Health Survey (PDHS) of 2012-2013 has confirmed the stalling of fertility decline and should be a wakeup call for all of us with Total fertility Rate (TFR) at 3.8% and CPR just at 35%. This is a time to remind ourselves that we cannot afford to become complacent about the population agenda and need to think how we can capitalize demographic dividend by investing in the social capital of young people.
Although ICPD had shifted the focus towards a comprehensive approach aimed at integrating family planning with reproductive health and also addressing a wider range of concerns especially economic status, education, gender equity and equality, it took Pakistan several years to develop its own Reproductive Health Package. This needs a major shift in program approach and implementation modalities, both in respect to reaching clients and delivering quality health services. One of the major areas where the focus can be maximized to achieve these objectives is the public-private partnership. NGOs and the private sector can play their conventional role of implementing model innovative projects to reach the most vulnerable and poorest of poor, while government can provide overarching policy and large scale service provision.
The global agenda of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) made at the Millennium Summit in September 2000 reaffirmed the commitment to work towards a world in which sustaining development and eliminating poverty would have the highest priority. In MDG progress reviews, the experts have rightly pointed out ‘Family Planning” on top of 10 quick wins action for achieving MDGs. We hope that our government puts population as a denominator for social and economic development and that it gets prominent space in the Vision 2025 planning document.
On the occasion of World Population Day, we need to revisit our commitment to ICPD and MDG goals, we must strive to keep our focus on population issues and related demographic indicators. The area where work needs to be focused is to reduce the “unmet need for family planning”, reduce maternal and infant mortality rates, incidence of unsafe abortions and improve nutritional deficiencies among women & children. With focused commitments and strategic partnerships, the reproductive health indicators can be improved to a satisfactory level and the ICPD agenda can be achieved. We also need to strike a fine balance between MDGs and reproductive health to ensure none of these are compromised. Let us all work together with common visionto turn this into reality.
Dr. Yasmeen Sabeeh Qazi,
Senior Country Advisor,
The David and Lucile Packard Foundation