Pakistan's Population Program Faces Daunting Challenges(fwd)


From: "Patricia M. Sears"

Pakistan's Population Program Faces Daunting Challenges: Ambitious Agenda Underscores Need for International Support

Washington, D.C.-Poor access to family planning services and other health-care, along with the abysmally low status of women, is undermining Pakistan's prospects for economic and social development, according to a new study by Population Action International. Nevertheless, recent developments in the country's family planning program are cause for cautious optimism.

Family planning services reach just a quarter of Pakistan's people, according to the PAI study, * Pakistan's Population Program: The Challenge Ahead.

* Only a third of women have access to a trained health worker in pregnancy and childbirth, and 600 women die for every 100,000 live births. Cultural attitudes that reinforce women's low social status are further obstacles to their use of family planning and other health services.

Pakistan's rate of population growth-at 2.9 percent among the highest in Asia-effectively cut in half the country's 6 percent rate of economic growth in the 1980s. With 140 million people, Pakistan is already the world's seventh most populous country. The country will rank fifth in 2020, when its population is projected to reach 262 million, and third in the world in 2050.

Since the early 1990s, however, successive governments have demonstrated much greater commitment to the country's family planning program, reflected in their efforts to significantly increase both staffing levels and spending, PAI states.

"In the past, Pakistani governments have short-changed the social investments that women-and their families-need," says Shanti R. Conly, co-author of the study and PAI's director of policy research. "As a result, Pakistani women receive less education, less health care and have even fewer opportunities outside the home than many of their Asian counterparts. Fortunately, after more than 25 years of inconsistent action on these issues, we are seeing signs of change."

In 1993, the government launched an ambitious "social action program" to expand basic services in health, education, family planning and rural water supply. The World Bank and other donors are financing a quarter of the cost of this $7.7 billion, five-year plan.

On the family planning front, efforts are focused on introducing contraceptive services in all government-run health facilities and on expanding networks of health and family planning outreach workers in rural communities. The plan calls for more than a doubling of spending on family planning, from $40 million in 1994 to $100 million by 1998.

The third in PAI's country study series, Pakistan's Population Program highlights the challenges Pakistan faces, recommends steps towards meeting those challenges, and suggests ways in which the international community can support the country's efforts to expand access to family planning and related health care. PAI's earlier country studies critiqued the family planning programs of China and India.

"Pakistan's prospects for economic and political stability depend on its success in addressing its development challenges, including population," says Ms. Conly. "Currently, the United States is doing little through its foreign aid program to reinforce positive trends in Pakistan, despite American interest in the peace and stability of South Asia."

The United States halted economic aid to Pakistan following a dispute over nuclear policy. The United Kingdom, Germany and the United Nations Population Fund are now the principal donors of grant aid to Pakistan's family planning program.

"The United States' decision to cut off aid to Pakistan in 1993 couldn't have come at a worse time for the family planning program," says Ms. Conly. "The U.S. pull-out did great damage to NGO programs and to subsidized condom sales. And it has made it more difficult for the Pakistan program to access U.S. technical expertise, at a time when Pakistan would welcome such help."


"Pakistan's Population Program: The Challenge Ahead" is available for purchase from: Population Action International; 1120 19th Street, NW/Washington, DC 20036 Telephone: 202/659-1833 EMAIL :

Population Action International seeks to increase political and financial support for effective population policies and programs grounded in individual rights. PAI advocates the expansion of voluntary family planning and related health services, of education for girls, and of economic opportunities for women. These are important goals in their own right and, through their profound influence on family size, offer the greatest promise for early population stabilization.

PAI is a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1965 which receives no government support and is funded entirely by contributions from individuals and foundations.

  Patricia M. Sears 
  Deputy Director, Media Relations
  Population Action International
  Washington, DC
  202-659-1833 Ext. 131
  202/293-1795 (fax)
  301-587-8671 (home)

  Contact: Sally Ethelston
  202-659-1833 Ext. 133
  202-387-6925 (home)


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