‘Promote contraceptives to avoid abortions’

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KARACHI: Family planning is such a taboo that even young women studying universities are reluctant to talk about it, said Sindh Health Minister Azra Fazal Pechuho.

She was talking to the media during the launch ceremony of the State of World Population (SWOP) Report 2023 under United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) at Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (ZABIST) University.

The event was attended by senior officials of the government of Sindh, consul generals of different countries, SZABIST President Shahnaz Wazir Ali, heads of national and international organisations, development experts, researchers, SZABIST faculties and students.

“Family planning must be discussed openly to promote contraception and birth control and stop unauthorised abortions performed illegally in shady clinics, which is exceedingly risky for the women,” she said.The health minister said that there is an acute shortage of doctors while specialised and general doctors in the province.

Pechuho said that although a substantial number of doctors graduate from 29 medical colleges, 12 government and 17 private, but many of them choose to work in urban areas rather than in rural regions. Subsequently, there were not as many doctors as there should be in places where people really need them. Dr Pechuho said reproductive health was a taboo subject in society, and students at colleges and universities also steer clear of it. It was necessary to discuss sexual reproductive health rights to raise awareness of the need for society to change so that health was given priority.

Speaking at the event Pechuho stated that family planning was an essential part of sustainable development. Family planning is a problem that affects both women and the economy. “Family planning has to be supported if we want a stronger, longer-lasting economy.”

“Family planning is an integral aspect of sustainable development. Family planning is not just a women’s issue; it is also an economic issue, and a development issue. We must invest in family planning for healthier and more productive populations, and more sustainable economic growth,” said Pechuho.

While talking about abortion, Dr Pechuho said Pakistan has a high rate of abortions, hence it’s important to raise knowledge about family planning.

There is legislation that prohibits abortions unless in life-threatening situations. On top of that, these fatalities may happen when pregnant women undergo unplanned abortions. “We need to explain to them the importance of preventing pregnancy rather than aborting it through life threatening procedures.”

SWOP titled ‘8 Billion Lives, Infinite Possibilities: The Case for Rights and Choices’, was launched globally in April 2023, presenting the latest trends about population growth or decline, fertility rates, reproductive health, family planning, and migration around the globe. The report stressed that women should be able to choose if, when, and how many children they want to have.

It said adding with an average annual growth rate of 2.41 per cent in Sindh, the total current population is 56.3 million (2022), estimated to grow to 95.7 million by 2050.

The report also discusses “population anxieties” felt in different parts of the world, including in Pakistan, in reaction to population growth or, in some cases, to low fertility rates or other demographic trends.

Echoing the key messages from the SWOP the UNFPA Representative Dr Luay Shabaneh said there is population anxiety in the country and a genuine linkage between population dynamics, poverty, nutrition and other socioeconomic dimensions recommending that these should be made clear in the public policies and programmes in the country. He called for a radical rethink of how women can freely make their own reproductive choices.

The SWOP report recommends that governments institute policies with gender equality and rights at their heart, such as parental leave programmes, child tax credits, policies that promote gender equality in the workplace, and universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. These offer a proven formula that will reap economic dividends and lead to resilient societies able to thrive no matter how populations change.

Population experts in Sindh province contend that given the province’s two percent annual population growth rate, 25 million jobs will be required by 2040, which would be a difficult task given the local and global economic conditions. Sindh alone would need 25,000 more primary schools by 2040. Currently, more than half of the girls at, 51 per cent (age 5-16), are out of school in the province, together with 39 percent of boys. Sindh will also require 5 million more houses by 2040 to accommodate the growing population.

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