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Investment in family planning key to achieve sustainable population growth: Speakers

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By Hamid Khan Wazir

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Dr. Faisal Sultan, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health, Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination said that investment in family planning was strategic and has far-reaching implications to achieve a sustainable population growth rate in Pakistan.

Speaking as a keynote speaker at a consultative meeting here on Tuesday, he said that cohesive actions were required at the federal and provincial levels to improve family planning programs.

Dr. Faisal Sultan also said the Council of Common Interest (CCI) recommendations provide a comprehensive framework for the federal and provincial governments to stabilize population growth.

The meeting was organized by the Population Center Pakistan in collaboration with the Population Council and with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The consultation was held with key stakeholders to present evidence on improving family planning services and builds the case for greater accountability on the CCI decisions to improve family planning programs in the country.

Members of the Senate, National Assembly of Pakistan, provincial government representatives, international partners’ representatives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The World Bank and United Nations Population Fund attended the meeting.

In her welcome remarks, Dr. Zeba Sathar, Country Director, Population Council expressed the need for greater investment in family planning programs. She highlighted the government’s highest level of commitment to achieve sustainable population growth.

Dr. Zeba reiterated CCI recommendations provide an excellent roadmap for achieving a sustainable population.

Highlighting interventions in four major areas of the CCI decisions, the Population Center Pakistan (PCP) and the Population Council presented high-impact practices to strengthen advocacy and enhance access, finances, and accountability.

The five most promising actions – the “Five Best Bets” developed to positively influence the uptake of modern contraceptives were presented by Dr. Zeba Sathar, Country Director Population Council, Dr. Ali Mir, Senior Director Programs, Population Council at the meeting.

These best bets propose key set of recommendations on engaging the for-profit sector in FP service provision, inducting men on FP, expanding the role of community health workers and enhancing funding for FP and vouchers for rights-based family planning in Pakistan.

Samia Ali Shah, Project Director at Population Council highlighted advocacy initiatives undertaken in re-framing the new national narrative on creating a balance/tawazun between resources and family amongst young people.

Mr. Farooq Azam, CEO, PCP presented the accountability dashboard at the meeting. The Dashboard is developed as a tool for the government to monitor the implementation of CCI decisions. The dashboard provides national and provincial task forces with the evidence to support their priority actions and actuate their recommendations for universal access to rights-based family planning.

In his comments, UNFPA representative Dr. Yilma Alazar reaffirmed UNFPA’s support to the government of Pakistan in the implementation of the CCI decisions. He reiterated UNFPA’s support to federal and provincial Task Forces on policy and programmatic interventions, strong monitoring mechanisms, and advocacy efforts to ensure universal access to family planning.

Speaking at the occasion, Dr. Talib Lashari, Focal Person, FP2030 said Pakistan’s renewed political commitment on achieving sustainable population growth has been instrumental in improving population welfare programs. He stressed on innovative approaches, building synergies, and public-private partnerships to deliver on the CCI recommendations.

The meeting also featured a plenary discussion with population experts and sector leaders. Moderated by Dr. Yasmeen Qazi, Senior Advisor, Bill and Melinda Fates Foundation, participants emphasized on continued political commitment and investment in family planning programs in the country.

Recognizing that population growth is a cross-sectoral issue that impacts all aspects of life, they expressed support on introducing innovative models, strengthen existing alliances and forge new ones with the private sector, leverage technology and mobilize finance to ensure universal access to family planning services in line with the CCI decisions.

In her concluding remarks, MNA Dr. Nausheen Hamid, Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination said, “The government of Pakistan is working to meaningfully advance towards achieving access to reproductive health as an integral part of universal healthcare. The government holds the CCI decisions and implementation as high priority and has expressed support for all actions under the CCI decisions to escalate the goal of achieving contraceptive prevalence rate of 50% by 2025.”

Dr. Nousheen reiterated the government’s vision in enhancing contraceptive uptake, reducing high maternal and child mortality, and enabling people to maintain a balance in their family size.

MNA Dr. Nousheen commended Population Center Pakistan and the Population Council’s initiatives in generating evidence and supporting the government. “Working with our partners, provinces and all other relevant key stakeholders, I am confident that we shall be able to move ahead on the path to progress development and prosperity of our people,” Dr. Nousheen Hamid concluded.

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