LAHORE - Speakers at a forum titled ‘Prevent Adolescent Pregnancy’ have stressed the need for focusing on education, provision of basic needs to the masses and creating awareness about the role of family planning in improvement of mother-child health. Quoting data given by the Population Welfare Department, media personalities opined that illiteracy, unemployment and the resultant absence of basic necessities were the root cause of adolescent pregnancy and rapid increase in population.

Punjab Assembly Speaker Rana Iqbal was the chief guest at the forum arranged by the Population Welfare Department in collaboration with UNFPA at a local hotel on Tuesday in connection with World Population Day.

Addressing the participants, Rana Iqbal stressed the need for taking religious leaders on board to stop underage marriage for checking adolescent pregnancy and population growth. He said that education was important for checking population explosion. He urged participants to give suggestions to the government for improving literacy rate and provision of food to every citizen.

Minister for Population Welfare Begum Zakia Shahnawaz said that Pakistan was a role model in family planning in 1960 but unfortunately now she was lagging far behind Bangladesh and Turkey. She said the masses had given a heavy mandate to the PML-N for resolution of their problems and now it was up to the government to deliver.

UNFPA representative Yo Yo said adolescent pregnancy was real threat to mother-child health and even life and there was need to check this. He urged the government to increase data availability for policy making. He said that it was unfortunate that no population census had been carried out in Pakistan for so many years.

Prominent nutritionist Jamshed Iqbal Cheema said 53.7 per cent children in Pakistan were under nutrition which was really alarming. He stressed the need for taking steps on war footing to ensure provision of food to every individual.

“China and Brazil have done a lot to check hunger but situation in Pakistan is entirely different. Even India is going in the right direction. Malnutrition is a potent threat to mother-child health and even life. We need real heroes like Presidents of China and Brazil who fought against hunger”, he said. He urged the government to increase budget for population welfare, engage religious scholars for creating public awareness, take measures to increase literacy rate and check hunger.

Senior journalist Sohail Warraich opined that failure of family planning was due to the reason that the issue was attached to religious sensitivity instead of its linkage with mother-child health. He said improvement in literacy rate could help controlling population growth. Quoting one child policy of China, he said that kids were precious in friendly country. He stressed the need for increasing budget for population welfare and vigorous awareness campaign for family planning in the interest of mother-child health.

Najam Wali said data presented by the Population Welfare Department clearly indicated the reasons behind rapid population growth.

“Less educated and poor parents have six children, rich and educated three while educated mothers have only two kids. Less educated and poor have bigger families and there is need to work on improving economy of every household and giving them access to education”, he said.

“It is up to the rulers to decide their priorities. Our finance managers are responsible for the present situation. They should focus on enabling parents to give education to their children. Parents marry daughters at an early age as they could not provide education to their loved ones because of scarcity of resources”, he said.