ISLAMABAD   -   The unavailability of contraceptives and shortage of expert health visitors are severally affecting the population planning programme of the government.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has left all provinces and region behind in the population growth as majority of the measures taken to control population are not enough to cover maximum number of people, it was revealed during a meeting on population control.

Secretary Planning Zafar Hasan was chairing the consultative forum organised by the Planning Commission. The forum for the first time brought together all provincial health, population, welfare, planning and development departments, the National Ministry of Health Services Regulation and Coordination at the Planning Commission.

The meeting was attended by secretaries and senior representatives from the departments of health, Punjab, KP, Balochistan, Sindh, AJK and G-B, planning and development departments and the Ministry of Health Services Regulation and Coordination.

Opening the consultative forum, Secretary Zafar Hasan said that population was the biggest challenge confronting Pakistan.

He said Ministry of Planning Development and Reforms had allocated resources in PSDP 2019-20 for establishment of population resource centre which was expected to strengthen the quality and availability of statistics in line with the prime minister’s vision of ensuring universal access to family planning services for sustainable population growth.

Briefing the meeting it was informed by the officials that the first reason of failure of the population planning was unavailability of enough contraceptives to reach maximum number of people. Similarly there was shortage of health visitors. The serving health visitors were not technically well-equipped to deal with the population planning, the official said.

For decades, no hiring of LHVs have been made which was hurting population control drive, said the official. Besides that, merit was not observed while hiring LHVs earlier. The appointments were made purely on political basis so the LHVs were not qualified enough to deal with the subject of population planning, the official maintained.

The planning secretary said that planning commission was keen to take measures for strengthening population statistics for evidence-based planning and policy reviews.

He said investing in population planning was key to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs), which is also main agenda of the incumbent government.

Member Social Sector and Devolution Dr Shabnum Sarfraz moderated the session and made a detailed presentation on the need of building institutional capacities for timely availability of demographic and population statistics and improving its quality and reliability for evidence-guided decision-making and policy review at the district, provincial and federal levels.

The provinces shared how population data was being utilised for guiding the population planning and resource allocation process. The establishment of a national population resource centre was welcomed as a vital initiative by all.

Secretary planning said that the national population resource centre will serve as a hub of population statistics and would develop digital platforms for population-related data to be used by planners, researchers and policy makers. He said it was expected to continuously evaluate the population landscape, identifying bottlenecks for initiation of timely remedial action. Policy forums will be organised for generating debate on population policies, frameworks and develop policy recommendations. Secretary Zafar Hassan nominated Dr Shabnum Sarfraz as the focal person for this initiative at the Planning Commission.