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Pakistan need Urban Family Planning approaches to avoid 4th position in 2030

YouthPakistan need Urban Family Planning approaches to avoid 4th position in 2030

ISLAMABAD: With more than 60% of the population under 35-years-of-age, Pakistan has one of the youngest countries in the world and has the 9th largest economy in the world according to World Bank, yet it is the fifth most populous country in the world according to United Nations Development Programme, on its way to become the fourth most populous by 2030. Country is in dire need of having family planning practices that can control urban population. This was the crux of the event held in Islamabad on population control and family planning.

Pakistan has a huge youth bulge which means that it has a very high demographic representation of citizens under the age of 30. As a developing economy the country has to create jobs, infrastructure, health facilities, education facilities and social support facilities for more than 200 million people with a large number of new people, entering job market every year.

A healthy, educated, skilful and law-abiding population is surely an asset for any country but the contrary can be detrimental to Pakistan in meeting its economic, social, political, environmental and human development goals.

This is exactly where family planning becomes an important national matter and achieving family planning commitments becomes a high national priority. To date, most family planning programmes have had a nationwide and rural focus. However, a rapidly increasing pace of urbanisation necessitated an evolved concept of family planning, one that can cater to the growing demand of FP services in urban areas in general and provincial capital in particular. Karachi alone, for instance, houses more than 21 million people, equivalent to more than 40% of Sindh’s population. The city is on its way to become the third most populous city in the world by 2030 according to documented research predicting it on the basis of scientific data.

In 2012, for the first time, Pakistan saw its first urban family planning project exclusively dedicated to a million catchment population in four towns of Karachi, namely Lyari, Malir, Bin Qasim and Korangi. This first urban family planning project was envisioned to accelerate Pakistan’s progress towards its committed FP2020 commitments made in London in 2012. Urban family planning as the name indicates is a specialized family planning project designed to meet the needs of urban areas and its inhabitants. The first of its kind, Sukh Initiative was a 4-year project to reduce unmet need and increase the contraceptive prevalence rates in the targeted communities of Karachi by 15 percent. The ambitious target was set for areas where the existing FP indicators were quite unpromising and were no better than far flung rural areas of Pakistan.

In a ceremony held in Islamabad, the project shared its results with notable stakeholders from public and private sector. “Sukh is all about families adopting a happy & healthy lifestyle. The evidence from Sukh has helped the government to bring operational and policy changes, thereby improving family planning access and usage” said Dr Haris Ahmed, Project Head of Sukh Initiative. Sukh was a challenge and being an innovation from its very inception, it aimed at utilizing the most modern techniques as well as best practices from around the world to increase the usage of contraceptives while reducing unmet need in the city of Karachi.

It was inspired from the inclusive approach of FP2020 and aimed at door-to-door services, 24X7 tele health, strong referral system, life skills based education, CHW and LHW visits, male involvement and availability of modern contraceptives at community level through both public and private sector facilities, to catalyze the voluntary uptake of family planning services by the community. The innovation worked and in just about 4 years, the project reported a whopping 20% increase in the usage of modern contraceptives.

“We are living in times of hyper urbanization, which necessitated us to rethink family planning from the context of urban areas. What Sukh did was exactly that,” said Shazina Masud the Chief Executive Officer of Aman Health, the organisation that led the implementation of the project.

As the world is warming up to the occasion of FP2020 summit, Pakistan has a project that it can scale up to achieve its national commitments. Next year, the country will present its progress in the presence of more than 60 countries around the world in London. Whether the contributions of Sukh were enough is to be seen, but the project surely is an innovative model for other urban areas of Pakistan to benefit from.

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