ISLAMABAD        -         A national study released Wednesday on the state of reproductive health of adolescents and youth in Pakistan found that health information and services accessible to adolescents empowers them to take advantage of opportunities for education and employment.

The study was jointly carried out by Population Council and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) with support from the Department for International Development, UK (DFID) in Islamabad.

The report analyses health issues including puberty, family planning and marriage, and awareness on gender-based violence faced by adolescent and young boys and girls (ages 15 to 29).

The study was conducted in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and Peshawar.

Dr. Nosheen Hamid, Member National Assembly of Pakistan and Parliamentary Secretary for National Health Services were the chief guest at the occasion. 

She expressed government’s commitment to provide safe, quality and affordable health services for its citizens.

She said that the present government considered three areas as its priority that include improving maternal health and wellbeing, improving the nutritional status of young persons, and stabilising population growth rate. 

Dr Nosheen also stressed on the need for stronger legislation to ensure universal access to health services, including reproductive health services, in line with the CCI recommendations.

Dr. Zeba Sathar, Country Director, Population Council said the report forms the basis of interventions to improve healthcare, including reproductive health access and services for adolescents and youth who make up over 60 percent of the total population.  The report findings endorse the Council of Common Interests’ recommendations such as ensuring universal access to reproductive health services and including life skills based education in mainstream school curriculum to inculcate responsible adulthood in young people.

Ms. Lina Mousa, UNFPA Representative in Pakistan said that the study provides evidence for policy and programme development for reproductive health of young people, enabling them to make right choices in life. 

“Mainstreaming life skills based education for in and out of school children are essential to promote healthy development of young people,” she emphasised.

Speaking at the occasion, Ms. Annabel Gerry, Head of DFID in Pakistan said that Pakistan currently has the largest cohort of young people in its history and provides an opportunity to harness human development.

“Lack of safe spaces for adolescent girls to talk about their health issues affects girls’ ability to learn and to be safe against child labour, violence and harassment,” she added.

Key recommendations of the study pertain to making health, including reproductive health information and services more accessible to young people. Health staff must be trained in counselling and treatment modalities.

 Medical camps and Lady Health Workers programme must address out of school adolescents’ health issues, whereas, pre-marriage counselling should be provided to young couples about family planning, fertility management and birth spacing.