Pakistan’s biggest problem is the galloping growth rate of its population increase. Pakistan is ranked sixth most population country in the world as its population has reached 161 million mark, as compare to 14th position and 33 million population in 1951. The current population growth rate is 1.86 per cent, which is remarkably low as compare to past decades due to efforts of government, is still among the highest growth rates in the world. The population of Pakistan will be doubled by 2047 with this growth rate.. With this ratio, it adds three million to the population each year. Each family in Pakistan, on an average, has 6.1 children. This places great saddle on the household and lead to perpetuation of poverty of a large proportion of the population.
This large population has shown noxious implications on our society, politics, psyche and economy. This devastating situation demands a serious and consolidated policy at National level in order to scale down this rapid population growth. An aggressive population planning policy is needed to be adopted to break the cycle of high fertility, low level of health and poverty. After giving a serious thought and study on the issue, I come to the conclusion that there is need to take some actions at national level and secondly there are some steps which are needed to be taken in order to improve the performance of ministry of population welfare.
So, my article would be consisting on two parts. Firstly, I will very briefly discuss the suggestions, which are needed to be taken at national level, and then I will discuss some steps, which are technical in nature.
At national level, we should take following steps. All of these need political will and backing. These will definitely show result and help to reduce rapid population growth. The break up of my suggestions is as follow:
1) The role of Parliament:
The role of parliament is much important in this context which needs to be understood.
Firstly, The issue of population explosion should be brought in Parliament, as it is matter of National survival, concern and interest. It should be debated and discussed there. Without unanimous political support, the population control policies cannot succeed.
Secondly, People are in doubt that whether family planning is Islamic or inIslamic, moral or immoral. The opposition of Ulemas has posed major setback to family planning policies in remote and rural areas. The Government should do lobby in favour of Family Planning polices in the best interest of Pakistan. It is needed to get a unanimous resolution in favour of family planning policies. The support of ulemas will make it more acceptable to the general public. It will remove ambiguity and confusion prevailing in the minds of people.
Thirdly, Early and young age marriage is very common in rural areas of Pakistan. The government should increase first-marriage age by legislation through parliament. It should be fixed 21 and 25 years respectively, for females and males. Japan has achieved sharp decline of 1.2 children per woman in population by enforcing the culture of late marriages. While by late marriages, Taiwan and Columbia reduced its population growth rate by 20 per cent. The young age marriage has created mother-child health care problems as well as it is a reason behind comparatively prolonged reproductive period.
2) Women Education:
The most effective means for keeping down population growth is educating women. The population growth is even less where women have access to rewarding employment. Sri Lanka and Kerala in south India are held as the best examples in the region. Sri Lanka has population growth of 1.04 per cent, which is closer to China. China too educated its women and made family planning goods and services available to people easily and cheaply. A survey conducted in this regard, showed that an educated women gives birth to 3.1 children on an average as compare to uneducated women, which has 6.5 children on an average. The women education is best way to enforce the culture of late-marriage. It also reduces the reproductive years of women and empowers her for gainful employment, which makes them able to make decision regarding the size of family. So, government should focus on educating women, which ultimately help to resolve many problems.
3) Formation of Inter-Ministerial Committee:
An Inter-Ministerial Committee should be constituted and this should include the representatives of ministries of population welfare, Health, Education, Information and Religious Affairs. This committee should be responsible for formation and adoption of their policies in their respective ministries, which may help to reduce rapid population growth.
4) Population Studies chair:
Population studies chair should be constituted in the mainstream universities of Pakistan. It would raise voice in advocacy of small families. It should be responsible for research on population related issues. It would also responsible for training activities in the relevant field. It will promote population-reducing activities and will provide information regarding service delivery.
5) Rational use of Media:
Media is most influential tool in today’s world. The useless advertisement makes no impact on mind. In fact, it leaves negative effect. The electronic and print media should be used rationally and effectively. The Dramas, discussion and debates should be launched in the media. These programs should depict the negative effects of large families and huge population. The mind of people can only be changed by rational approach.
The poets, scholars and Authors should be invited and hired to create awareness and write on overpopulation related issues, which depicts the harms and negative impacts for having large families.
Now I would come to the second part of my article which is technical one. In Pakistan, ministry of population welfare is that ministry which has shown some results. Few decades back, the population growth rate was around 3 per cent, which is now lowered down to 1.86 per cent. It is due to the consolidated and consistent efforts of all the governments. However, still there is needed to make sincere and consistent efforts to low down population growth to a reasonable limit. Now, I will put forward few suggestions, which may help to improve the efficiency and performance of ministry of population welfare and ultimately will affect the rapid population growth positively and will promote the culture of keeping families small.
1) Incentive Schemes for Professionals:
The ministry should offer incentive schemes for doctors, nurses and LHWs who are working in remote and rural areas as the majority of people live in the rural areas. So there is a dire need for introducing incentive schemes for the staff members who are working in the rural areas.
2) A role for Midwives:
In a country where 76 per cent of total births take place at home, it is surprising that barely 5 per cent of the midwives who help deliver the babies have had any formal training. Most midwives are self-taught practitioners and carry out the last minute risky emergency procedure associated with childbirth. No wonder, Pakistan has one of the highest mother and child mortality rate in the world. The ministry of population welfare, along with ministry of health should pay attention to the lack of proper midwives training facilities in the country. Given the economic limitations of an average Pakistani household and traditional cultural orientation of our people, most Pakistani prefer childbirth at home rather than in a maternity home. Besides providing them childbirth training, these should be trained to make aware local people about family planning practices and contraception. It can be imparted by administrating midwives training workshops and short courses through basic health care units. It may have very deep rooted and positive effect.
3) Population Control Committees:
In each District, population control committee should be constituted. This committee would be supposed to administer population policies and other related activities in that district. These committees should be formed with the essence of community-based approach and non-government members should be more. It will involve local people in the governmental activities, which will help to get the targets. These committees may take steps like arrange counseling and awareness camps, celebrating population days and checking the services available in that district etc. The formation of these committees will create a sense of participation in the local people. It will help to improve monitoring and supervision at gross-root level.
4) Public-Private Partnership:
Public-Private Partnership is inadequate. Private sectors and NGOs are not fully involved in sharing responsibility. The ministry should try to convince and encourage NGOs to work in this field. A lot of funds can be obtained from international donor agencies. Thee resources may be utilized in collaboration with NGOs. In this regard, the government should announce incentive for such NGOs because these can reach such areas where government cannot.
5) Ulemas as Volunteers:
The Ulemas should be convinced to become the volunteer and ask people to keep families small and within affordable limits. In this regard, ministry can benefit from the experiences of Malaysia, Iran and Egypt. The participation of Ulemas will remove the confusion from people’s mind that whether family planning is Islamic or against Islam. The Ulemas command great respect and influence in our rural areas where majority of our population is living. The success on this front will definitely help to reduce rapid population growth.
Contraception is very important and technical issue. In this context, there is need to focus on under given points.
i) In Pakistan, there is dire need for rapid deployment of specially trained professionals to replace the traditional mode of family planning service delivery, and it is here that social marketing plays an important role. Social marketing should use commercial marketing techniques and practices in order to improve the way in which couples are able to access high quality, affordable products and services.
ii) Couple living in remote and rural areas in particular is constricted in their choices by three key barriers. First, the low level of awareness at an individual level of the choice of the products and services on offer. Second, the social and cultural barriers that prevent couples from seeking advice. And third, the inaccessibility of products and services in areas, which need them most and can afford them least. The ministry should ensure the availability of choice and availability of expert advice to help guide that choice making itself felt, even in the remotest parts of Pakistan.
iii) The ministry should allocate good amount of funds for research and development of new contraceptives. Some contraceptives are not producing 100 per cent results. These should be modified or removed. With so much contraceptive choices for women, now research should focus on increasing the option for male method of contraception as well.
iv) Counseling is a crucial element in the provision of contraceptive services. Effective counseling helps couple makes “informed decision” for themselves. In short, effective counseling helps match the client’s needs and preference with the methods on offer. For example, some couples may prefer to utilize reversible methods, while other couples may opt for the irreversible solution. Few methods are considered 100 per cent effective and in some methods there is risk of pregnancy. So, ministry should ensure the availability of ‘counselors’, even in remote areas, which should be focus on target groups. It can be done with collaboration of private sector and NGOs.
7) Educational Factors:
The ministry should use educational institutions to create awareness among youth regarding deadly impacts of large families. The population days should be observed in all educational institutions like other national days. Chapter regarding the negative implications of big population should be included in the syllabus and even courses like “population studies” can be offered at certain level. The slogans of ministry of population welfare can be advertised on the back of the books published for students.
The alarming growth rate has given birth to many problems. These days we are observing the food crisis which is ultimate effect of huge population. There is no need to be Newton to understand this phenomenon. If above-mentioned steps were taken with their true spirits, it will definitely help to reduce this rapid population growth. It would positively reduce the problems which we are facing today.