Excerpt from op-ed by Huma Yusuf in Dawn
The best news Pakistanis have received in the past week comes in the form of the National Population Policy 2010. The policy recognises that demographics are the key to promoting economic development and security in Pakistan. It also prioritises family planning — particularly in an effort to promote birth spacing — as the best strategy for achieving ambitious population targets (2.1 births per woman in 2025).
In many ways, the story of Pakistan is one of a failure of family planning. Although the Family Planning Association of Pakistan was set up as early as 1952, we have seen a five-fold increase in our population between 1951 and 2009, from 34 million to 171 million.
The urgent need for revamped family planning service delivery cannot be understated. Although 96 per cent of married Pakistani women are aware of at least one modern contraceptive method, only 22 per cent are currently using modern contraceptives, while another eight per cent use less effective traditional methods. One quarter of married women want to wait before having another child, or do not want more children, but are not using contraception. And 24 per cent of married women admit that their last child was mistimed or unwanted.
Many Pakistanis bemoan the prevalence of abortion here (a 2004 Population Council study estimates that there are 890,000 abortions annually), but this too should be understood as a shortcoming of our government’s family planning service delivery. According to the 2006-07 Pakistan Demographic Health Survey, 65 per cent of women who had an abortion were over the age of 30, while 80 per cent had more than three children. In this context, the population policy’s emphasis on family planning is a welcome paradigm shift.
Continue reading on Dawn.
Photo Credit: Adapted from “chitral photos,” courtesy of flickr user groundreporter.