Staff Reporter – ISLAMABAD:
President Dr Arif Alvi Wednesday said it was the responsibility of media and Ulema to guide the masses on family planning as the haphazard population growth was causing immense stress on the national economy.
The president, addressing the launching ceremony of The Challenge Initiative Pakistan, said a comprehensive and continuous awareness was inevitable not only for mother and child’s health but also for the national development.
The Challenge Initiative (TCI) is a global initiative by Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health. It is a “business unusual” platform that empowers local governments to rapidly and sustainably scale best-practice health interventions to benefit urban poor communities.
TCI Pakistan will be the sixth hub working through Greenstar, after five other hubs in East Africa, Francophone West Africa, India, Nigeria and the Philippines.
The president urged the media to ensure frequent messaging on family planning in their dramas, morning shows to educate the people on the subject which also needed to be destigmatized. Similarly, the Ulema should use the pulpit for health messaging as they had done during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said in a conservative society like Pakistan, it was also the government’s responsibility to ensure easy access to contraceptives through available tools of lady health workers and Ehsaas Program.
He said through Ehsaas program, the government was in contact with around 170 million families which could also be used for messaging on multiple subjects.
He said the government was taking both tangible and intangible measures to address the issue of haphazard population growth.
President Alvi, who earlier launched the Initiative by clicking the button, said consequent to the government’s ongoing measures like Ehsaas cash assistance and business loans, the women would be empowered who later would be able to extend their supportive voice on family planning.
He said malnutrition, neonatal deaths, maternal mortality and stunting had negative impacts on society which was also being addressed by the government by providing incentives to the women.
The president told the gathering that the statistics of nine million unwanted pregnancies a year in Pakistan could be halved within a year if the government ensures access to modern contraceptives.
The president also rubbished the notion of Ulema opposing family planning and said the issue had successfully been addressed in other Muslim countries including Egypt, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Iran.
He said the local packaging of intra-uterine devices is expected to start soon which would make a difference and added that the country could also move towards introducing injectable hormones.
President Alvi also thanked Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for supporting the country in its fight against polio as well as extending assistance on the subject of family planning.
Special Assistant to PM on Health Dr Faisal Sultan the huge population could become an asset for the country if it was properly educated and rich with good mental and physical health.
He said the government was taking steps to empower the women and skill train the youths to enable them to become a competitive force in the world.
He said under the Family Planning Targets of 2030, the government had targeted to enhance the ratio of women using contraceptives from the current 35% to 60%.
He said the TCI had focused on collaboration with the district government for the successful execution of the program.
Mentioning the government’s successful handling of the COVID pandemic and launch of Rs 1 million health insurance facility, the SAPM said the country had reported not even a single polio case during over one year and even the environmental sampling also detected no case during two months.
Executive Director TCI Global Kojo Awuku Loko said the launch of TCI Pakistan manifested the government’s commitment to address the challenge of reproductive health.
He said the TCI was a global platform that supported the provincial governments to scale up high-impact family planning interventions in urban areas that have proven successful elsewhere in the world.
With its presence in around 112 cities across 11 countries covering a population of around 110 million, the TCI has been led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, based at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health USA, for the past five years.
The TCI will support access to modern contraception and family planning by supporting provincial governments in large urban cities with underserved communities across Punjab, Sindh and Islamabad Capital Territory. Chief Executive Officer of Greenstar Social Marketing Syed Azizur Rab told the gathering that out of 10 million pregnancies a year in Pakistan, around four million were unwanted. Around 2.9 million women had to go through abortions and the consequent complications claim lives of over 10,000 women.