Unmet Family Planning Needs in Pakistan

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The contraceptive prevalence rate for Pakistan is 30%, which pales in comparison to neighboring countries.  Of the 24 million married women of reproductive age (MWRA), 17 million do not use family planning and 6 million have an unmet need.   Some factors for these numbers include family planning not being a priority in the public health sector and a need for female education on family planning.   There is a lack of family planning services provided at public clinics and under-utilization of services due to funding, lack of supplies, and policies that limit family planning counseling.

In 1994, the Lady Health Workers (LHW) program was started and aimed at providing family planning services at the community level.  The workers unlimited access to households, open communication with women, and proven high level of acceptability have made them suitable and reliable providers for maternal, newborn, and child health services.  Although successful, the LHW program has received poor support from the health sector, been subjected to political interference, and at times was “hijacked” to support other health service programs.

There are several stakeholders, including prominent non-government organizations, in favor of adopting a new policy that places emphasis on family planning and providing adequate funding for these services.  Why has this not happened?

Pakistan needs to adopt and implement policies which promote access to high-quality family planning services, improve funding for public health facilities to provide family planning education, and encourage collaboration with NGOs that successfully run family planning programs in Pakistan.

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2 Responses to “Unmet Family Planning Needs in Pakistan”

  1. bosede Says:

    This post points to a critical issue in Pakistan and many LMIC countries. I am curious about the role of religion in influencing the politics surrounding family planning. One report noted that critics in countries with a large portion of Muslims have claimed that family planning is a Western plot to reduce the growth of the Muslim population — which is in direct opposition to the Islamic belief (http://www.prb.org/pdf04/islamfamilyplanning.pdf).

    Sadly, the effects of such thinking can have detrimental effects on global health. We’ve seen in Nigeria, for example, that polio remains endemic due to distrust of the West and a desire to promote Islam in the mostly Muslim northern region (It’s not even the entire country!)
    (https://healthnewsandculture.wordpress.com/2009/01/15/vaccinations-are-poisoni-think/)

    How do you tackle this type of religious barrier on a national scale?

    If religion does play a role, perhaps addressing these beliefs may make family planning more paletable for policymakers in Pakistan.

    • hiyawit Says:

      Religion does play an important role in influencing the population. Therefore, getting significant religious leaders and Islamic scholars involved in the policy making process might help reduce the religious barrier.

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