Population Welfare Training Institute, Lahore, Population Welfare Department, Government of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan
Since the inception of Pakistan, the family planning program in the 1960s, contraceptive use has increased, albeit slowly. Unfortunately, with a huge disappointing stall shown in the 2017-18 Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey Key Indicators Report with contraceptive prevalence actually going down one percentage point to 25 percent from 26 percent in 2012-13. The Federal Task Force under the flagship of Council of Common Interests headed by the Prime Minister agreed with the aim of reducing the population growth rate from 2.4 percent per annum to 1.5 percent by 2024, and 1.1 percent per annum by 2030. This was to be achieved by raising the contraceptive rate to 50 percent by 2025 and 60 percent by 2030.
On the other hand, The COVID-19 pandemic has had and will continue to have, a profound impact on the lives of people across the globe. This upheaval also has a profound impact on access to family planning information and services in Punjab. Despite this disruption, the need for family planning will not change, for most women, family planning is critical and basic health care.
In Punjab, 71% of family planning needs are satisfied with 38.3% CPR; while 29% of family planning needs of married women age of contraceptive use are unmet. To meet the unmet needs of family planning and desired targets of Council of Common Interests till 2030, there is a need to increase 1.5% CPR per annum. Sadly, with current efforts, CPR is increasing by 1% per annum. Under COVID-19, where service delivery outlets of government are closed, awareness drives and mobilization are shut, people are at home and have ample time to have sexual contact with his/her partner and supplies of contraceptive methods are highly affected by a nationwide. It is quite impossible to progress with current efforts a 1% increase in CPR per annum. Consequently, the desired targets of Councils of Common Interests to meet the unmet needs of family planning are unable to achieve under COVID-19.
According to UNICEF, the UN body, Pakistan is projected to record five million births in the nine months since the COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. These births expected to take place between March and December.
The alarming bells are ringing at our doors. There is a need to devise a holistic mechanism to ensure family planning services to the married women age of contraceptive use and they are also registered clients of the Population Welfare Department, Punjab.