Health experts say a recent report by the United Nations Population Fund has pointed up the need to tackle a growing problem in Pakistan – an expanding population and little modern family planning.
“Every mother on average gives birth to four children. We are now the sixth most populous country in the world, “ said Rabbi Royan, UNFPA country chief.
“Many couples who want to have fewer children have no access to contraceptives or family planning advice.”
Pakistan has a 1.8 percent annual population growth rate with a life expectancy of 65 years for men and 67 years for women, according to a report by the UNFPA published this week.
The contraceptive usage rate among women aged 15 to 49 stands at 27 percent. That rate drops to 18 percent for modern methods of contraception, including condoms and birth control pills.
“Contraceptives are largely unheard of in rural areas,” said Pervaiz Roderick, the national coordinator of the Catholic Church Family Life Commission.
“Birth control is just not among the priorities of our policy makers.”
The Catholic Church in Pakistan promotes natural family planning through the Billing’s Ovulation Method and regularly conducts trainings for Christian couples and Muslim health workers in seven dioceses.
“Catholics take theology of the body and related encyclicals as a part of their religious obligations. However, we cannot discuss birth control with Muslims at a grassroots level because they consider discussing sexuality as a taboo,” he said.
“Our only approach to them is on an individual level.”
Doctor Hasan Faisal, a former official at the Federal Ministry for Population Welfare, said stereotypes and prejudice often hinder efforts to address the issue of family planning.
“People consider family planning as a western idea. Other challenges include polygamy, immature mindsets, illiteracy, the rural-urban divide and the desire of many families to produce sons,” said Faisal, who now directs the Medical Recaller Foundation in Abbottabad.
He added that half-hearted efforts on the part of volunteers is also a problem.
“Lack of interest will cause a delay of about eight months before the new UN report reaches the field level,” he said.
“Our population has already increased fivefold since the creation of the country. Pakistan could become the world’s fourth most populous country by 2050.”
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