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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The reality of family planning in Pakistan

2.9 million people are added to the Pakistani population annually. The country severely needs family planning; however, according to Dr. Aneela Kamil local pharmacies fail to provide any family planning devices.

Pakistan was one of the first Asian countries to start the population planning program with the help of international agencies. The Family Planning Association of Pakistan is now called ”Rahnuma”. This organization was initially founded in 1953.

United Nations Fund for population works closely with National and Provincial departments of health to promote and safeguard the reproductive rights of girls and women. Policies are guided by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) documents to standardize the provision of family planning services across Pakistan.

The main policy goal has been to reduce fertility through encouraging voluntary family planning among women of reproductive age.

Read more: The implications of Pakistan’s unbridled population growth

Pakistan’s last census was held in 2017 after a gap of 19 years and we are quoted to have exceeded 225 million. According to an estimate, 2.9 million are added to the Pakistani population each year, although one-fourth of Pakistani women wish to either delay the birth of their next child or end childbearing altogether.

Family planning centers are usually located within the outpatient departments of Tertiary care hospitals or in the Basic Health Units (BHU). Lady health workers at the BHU educate and motivate women in rural settings to avail family planning as means to space pregnancies mostly by use of depot injections or pills.

Implants and devices are inserted either in person by a doctor or under the supervision of a doctor. Ligation of tubes by a small cut in the tummy is also offered at big centers.

Read more: Pakistan & Population Explosion: Know When its Time To Stop

A need to support women

Despite focused efforts in this regard very few ladies from middle and upper economic segments of society ever visit these family planning centers. Instead, they prefer to get information and services at private clinics.

Unfortunately, the local pharmacies in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad do not have adequate supplies of tablets, injections, implants, or devices. I personally visited pharmacies as many of my patients complained about the unavailability of these items.

I was told by all pharmacists that I must refer these ladies to family planning centers as the supplies are with them. Then I visited three “Rahnuma” centers in the Twin cities and found that even they have a shortage of supplies.

Read more: How we became more than 7 billion – humanity’s population explosion

Keeping in line with WHO’s document on ensuring human rights in the provision of contraceptive information and services, we must respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of anyone who seeks or uses contraceptive information and services.

My humble recommendation to concerned authorities is to ensure the availability of contraceptive devices including emergency contraception at all local pharmacies so that physicians at walk-in clinics can take the opportunity to propagate and support women’s reproductive rights.

Read more: Barriers to women education, health and gender equity in Pakistan

The author has done MBBS, MCPS, FCPS, MCCEE, and is a consultant Obstetrician & Gynecologist at Mega Medical Complex. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.