Altaf Hamid Rao.
QUETTA , (Parliament Times): The 3-day brain-storming sessions of 16th Country Engagement Working Group (CEWG) on population, reviewing population demographic dividends of Pakistan including Azad Jammu Kashmir, concluded in Quetta on Thursday, official sources said. “Pakistan has set up a CEWG comprising Secretaries/Director Generals of Health and Population Departments of the Provinces and Regions (Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Gilgit Baltiatan), representatives of ministry of National Health Service, R&C, P,D&R Division, International Development Partners, representatives of Civil Society and the Private Sector aimed at consistently monitoring and reviewing the progress on Fp2020 and eight core areas of approved CCI recommendation dated November 19, 2018”, said Secretary Population Welfare of AJK government Raja Muhammad Razaq, attending the conference. Elaborating the salient features and objectives of the grand moot, Razaq told this Correspondent over telephone from Quetta Thursday night that the three days sessions included, the meeting of Contraceptive Commodity Working Group (CCSWG), first quarter meeting of CEWG and Advocacy and Media Group to ensure time line to achieve set targets under the CCI recommendations and FP2020 to address challenges of rapid population growth in Pakistan. The meeting was attended by the provincial secretaries of health and population, development partners, civil society organisations and all relevant stakeholders. As per the SoP, the CEWG meeting was chaired by Manzoor Zehri secretary population welfare department, Govt. of Baluchistan while meeting of other two groups were chaired by the respective chair persons. Raja Razzaq Secretary population welfare department Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) participated in all three groups while the Ministry of National Health Services Regulation & Coordination, Govt.of Pakistan was represented by Dr. Shahid Director General PPW and Mr. Ehsan Director PPW with their team. Similarly, UNFPA was represented by Dr. Jamil Ahmed, Reproductive health specialist, Mr Abdul Ghaffar Khan Lead Technical Support Unit and Asif Wazir. All the stakeholders besides giving a detailed account of progress on eight core areas under CCI approved recommendations, challenges and bottlenecks, also discussed the draft national narrative, status of contraceptives in the provinces and regions and methodology of pool procurement. The advocacy and media group dilated upon the contours for creating awareness and behavioural changes through different media campaigns to sensitise the general public to responsibly decide the size and spacing of their family ensuring a balance (tawazun)between their resources and family size. The eight core areas under CCI approved recommendations include: Establish National & Provincial Task Forces for steering, providing oversight and taking critical decisions to reduce population growth, lower fertility rate and increase contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR); Ensure Universal Access to Family Planning/ Reproductive Health Services; Finances; Legislation; Advocacy & Communication; Curriculum and Training; Contraceptive Commodity Security and Support of Ulema. Raja Razzaq Secretary population welfare department AJK continued that Pakistan was the sixth most populous country in the world with a population of 207.8 Million growing at an intercensal growth rate of 2.4% per annum between 1998-2017. At this rate Pakistan, unfortunately, was moving toward fifth most populous State in the world while its population will double in the next 30 years, compared with an average doubling time of 60 years for other South Asian countries. Similarly, the population of the country is projected to increase to 285 million by 2030. “Such a high level of population growth was unsustainable and has already eaten into the modest gains made in terms of socio-economic development. The rapidly growing population has direct negative implications for adverse climate change, environment degradation, deforestation and above all the decline in water availability per capita putting Pakistan in water stress situation. It will exacerbate food security and threaten the country’s sustainable development prospects”, he said. The latest Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (2017-18) confirms that there has been little change in fertility levels since 2005 with women bearing an average of 3.6 children over their reproductive life span. Rather than showing progress, the critical driver of fertility, the modern Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (mCPR) has gone down to 25% from 26% reported in the previous PDHS in 2012-13. The unmet need for Family Planning Services remains high at 17% indicating that millions of married couples are unable to receive adequate access to information and services to have the number of children and the spacing they desire. This was also a denial of fundamental human right as family planning under various international conventions and commitments has emerged as fundamental right of the married couples to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information, education and means to do so. This gap between their intent and actual usage of family planning services is associated with long physical distances, costs and social barriers, and in particular with misperceptions about modern contraceptives which are more pronounced in the rural areas. All these access factors affect the poor and uneducated more seriously, he underlined. He further said that all three groups are working with the close collaboration and support of UNFPA and the role of UNFPA in addressing the challenge of alarming population growth in the country was highly appreciated by the participants. CEWG has made various decisions to implement the CCI recommendations as well as decision made by federal task force in the chair of President of Islamic republic of Pakistan. In nutshell, these meetings emerged as very useful brainstorming sessions in evolving a common policy vision to address the challenges related to this emergency in the country besides keeping a continuous finger on the pulse of issues related to alarming population growth in Pakistan, he concluded