On 25 January, Pakistan launched a new voluntary family planning project to address the pressures resulting from rapid population growth and help achieve economic stability and better health and nutrition for families.
Relieving population pressure
The initiative, called Marvi, is being implemented by Pakistan’s Health and Nutrition Development Society and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Its main aim is to meet the needs of underprivileged families in two districts of Sindh – Tharparkar and Thatta – reports The Express Tribune.
Population Welfare Minister, Mumtaz Hussain Khan Jakhrani, explained that, “Voluntary family planning lessens the pressure of rapid population growth on social, environmental and economic infrastructures while reducing the risks of illnesses to women and children.”
The project is designed to support the regional government in meeting its target of achieving 45% contraceptive use rate by 2020. It aims to reach one million people. Dedicated teams of professionals and grass root community workers will carry out the work.
One speaker for the project stressed how central education is for managing population size. “We need to change norms and values of people living in underprivileged areas of our country,” said Health Policy Plus Country Director Rahal Saeed, mentioning in particular, ending child marriage.
Problems and solutions in Pakistan
Last year, concerns were raised about the consequences should Pakistan fail to address its growing population. Fears were that it would exacerbate problems the country was already facing, such as housing and water shortages, and fuel existing political and military conflicts. There were also concerns that it would affect the provision of other services, such as education and energy.
The working age population in Pakistan is estimated to increase by 70 million in next 20 years, posing a huge development challenge.
Contraception funding in Nigeria
The project was launched on the same day that the Nigerian government pledged to release $1 million for contraceptives, according to an article in the Premium Times.
Although overall fertility rates are falling in Nigeria, they are currently around double the global average. Because of the very large number of young people in its population leading to high population momentum, Nigeria will have high birth rates for decades to come, causing its population to triple over the next 80 years, to more than 600m people.
As accelerated population growth poses major challenges worldwide, especially for countries with high growth and few resources to cope, governments are increasingly recognising and looking for ways to address the issue. You can read more about some of these initiatives here.
Such initiatives have never been more important. Last year, the US cut funds to organisations which provide abortion services or information about them. These cuts have had severe implications, affecting people living in some of the poorest countries the most. According to a study conducted by Marie Stopes International – an international NGO providing contraception and safe abortion services – the cuts are likely to lead to 2.5 million more unintended pregnancies, 870,000 more unsafe abortions and 6,900 more avoidable maternal deaths.
We believe that access to family planning services is a fundamental right and crucial to slowing and reversing unsustainable population growth. Join us in our campaigns to protect family planning services from US cuts and increase overseas aid for family planning. It’s taking effect.