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No family planning among those who need most 

11 November 2010 01:36:55

No family planning among those who need most

Fertility rate ranks Pakistan in top ten populous countries

Sohail Rashid

ISLAMABAD: “Though it is hard for me to feed my 8 children full meals a day and send all to school but still I have no family planning thoughts as children are born with their fate and food,” said Qadir Khan, a labourer living in a slum of Islamabad.

Qadir is among millions of Pakistanis who think alike and continue raising population as our planners reportedly do not target majority of them being gypsies and the poor who do not seem on their policy radar. Demographers believe that with population growth rate (PGR) of 2.3%, Pakistan’s total fertility rate (TFR) at 4.0 in 2009 (the average number of children born by a woman over her lifetime) seems substantially higher than the global average (2.6)and ranks Pakistan in top ten countries facing population explosion that off tracks it on development index.

Population Reference Bureau (PRB) estimates that with the existing PGR and TFR, Pakistan population will cross 335 million in 2050, a projected increase of 85% from 2009 levels, from the existing over 180 million (mid 2009). According to UNCEF, 32% of girls are married before 18 years of age and that too with higher fertility rate while PRB estimates that only 30% married women use contraceptives and 22% married women use modern contraceptives. Use of contraceptives by men is reportedly less than women.

Various studies suggest that mostly those who hail from middle or rich class use contraceptives though their resources allow them to have more children with quality of life but they prefer to have smaller families. Whereas, Qadir Khan and millions of other poor and gypsies like him, who badly need to control size of their families, do not even think about it. Either they do not have access to contraceptives and information on family planning or they do not want to use contraceptives due to their beliefs and myths.

INFN survey found that gypsies, slum dwellers and other marginalized and the poor do not have knowledge or access to contraceptives as they have not even sufficiently been considered as a target group for population planning and contraceptive awareness by authorities and campaigners.

The situation seems even the worst in federal capital’s slum areas where dozens of children are seen roaming without clothing and meals, health and education and childhood pleasures as neither their parents nor government have any plans to provide these children food and other basic necessitates. The poor parents think they have been born with their fate while the civic and government bodies even do not consider them as citizens who need to be counted in any planning process.

Qadir Khan, 55, is a street vendor, hailing from Peshawar and currently living in a slum of Islamabad. He sells corn cobs and with his meagre income, he hardly can feed family of 10, eight of them children.

When asked by INFN why does not he opt for family planning when he cannot feed children, he replied: “Family planning is meaningless. God creates us and He is responsible to provide us with food and other necessities of life.” He said his elder son Azizullah, 15, works at an auto workshop while his other sons ranging between age from 5 to 13 years, are studying in school in different classes. One of his sons always works with him.

“My elder son had to leave school as he could not afford expenses of his education. Now he is working in a workshop,” said Qadir Khan but he did not agree to family planning, saying he cannot control if more children are born.

His son Azizullah could not go to school because of his father’s thinking of not controlling the quantity of children rather compromising the quality of children.

“Even after years long family planning campaigning, Qadir Khans and similar other people will continue with population explosion until our planners go for extensive behaviour change communications and campaigns with those communities who need family planning information and methods most,” said Rashida Latif, a demographer and researcher. She suggested that tribal and community leaders and religious personalities need to be involved in such aggressive campaigning otherwise we cannot meet any single development target.