Sania urges balanced population growth for steady development Need for contraceptives highest among low-income women: expert

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Zubair Qureshi

Improving access to quality family planning services and accelerating efforts to ensure balanced population growth is critical to take Pakistan forward and achieve goals of development.
This was stated by Dr. Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection, and Chairperson Benazir Income SupportProgramme (BISP)at the launching ceremony of the innovative model for improving access to family planning services for marginalized women.
The pilot intervention is an innovative model to extend access to family planning service to the BISP beneficiaries and is being jointly implemented by BISP, the Population Council and Punjab Population Innovation Fund (PPIF) in RahimYar Khan district.
Addressing the audience Dr Nishtar reiterated Government’s vision of ensuring universal access to family planning for sustainable growth and poverty alleviation and hoped the evidence generated from this innovative pilot would help in ensuring better health outcomes for poorest women and their children.
“The Ehsaas Programme realizes the importance of provision of quality and affordable family planning services to its beneficiaries which signifies the importance that the Government attaches to the welfare of the under privileged and marginalized segments of the population,” she added.
Dr. Zeba Sathar, Country Director Population Council was of the view that the highest unmet need for contraceptives in Pakistan is among the low-income women.
It is not just the lack of family planning services but also the lack of access to these services that hinders women to act on their fertility intentions. Investing more in contraceptive care, especially within the public health system, will produce a much-needed boost in meeting both family planning and maternal health goal and will support the 2018 Council of Common Interests recommendations on family planning, she added.
Speaking at the occasion, Dr. Ijaz Nabi, Chairman, Punjab Population Innovation Fund (PPIF) said the Punjab government had established PPIF as a technical hub to pilot innovative, scalable and sustainable family planning interventions such as this initiative in district Rahim Yar Khan.
PPIF with independent board of directors and a flexible programmatic and organizational structure specializes in designing and piloting interventions that can supplement public sector programming for improving family planning information and services.
Explaining the design of the pilot intervention, Dr. Ali Mir, Director Programmes at the Population Council said that the intervention will mitigate cost and information related barriers by financing the uptake of family planning services for 20,000 BISP beneficiaries – married women of reproductive age. It will also create community-based information channels for an additional 60,000 BISP beneficiaries through BISP Beneficiaries Committees, BISP Mother Ambassadors and Lady Health Workers.
Ms. Lina Mousa, UNFPA Country Representative to Pakistan, reaffirmed UNFPA’s support to work with the government of Pakistan in ensuring that that high-quality services and information are made accessible to all the couples to decide the number and spacing between their children.

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