KARACHI: The Consultative Workshop on Voluntary National Survey and International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) was held on Thursday where key stakeholders from various sectors convened to assess the progress made in implementing the ICPD Programme of Action at the provincial level.
This workshop, jointly organized by the Federal Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), focused on addressing the challenges and opportunities arising from population growth in Sindh.
Sindh, the second-most populous province in Pakistan, is expected to witness a significant surge in its population, reaching a staggering 95.7 million by the year 2050. This projection, based on an average annual growth rate of 2.41 percent, highlights the pressing need for sustainable development and effective population management strategies. The current population in Sindh stands at 56.3 million as of 2022.
One of the critical concerns discussed at the workshop was the insufficient health coverage leading to an alarming number of maternal deaths in Sindh. Annually, approximately 3,000 mothers lose their lives due to inadequate healthcare services. However, experts emphasize that by increasing contraceptive use from the current rate of 31 percent to 49 percent, these maternal deaths could be reduced by 33 percent.
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The province’s high total fertility rate of 36 contributes to the prevalence of infant mortality and malnutrition, with 60 out of every 1,000 infants dying within their first year of birth. Furthermore, 50 percent of children under the age of five suffer from stunted growth.
Education emerged as another pressing issue in Sindh, with more than half of the girls (51 percent) between the ages of 5 and 16 being out of school, along with 39 percent of boys. Experts highlight that without sufficient investment in family planning, women’s empowerment, and education, accommodating the growing population will pose significant challenges for the province.
The workshop recognized the remarkable progress made in advancing reproductive health, promoting gender equality, and empowering women and girls in Sindh. Participants engaged in fruitful discussions on various topics, including women and youth empowerment, population and sustainable development, education, food security, climate change, urbanization, and internal migration.
The outcomes of the Consultative Workshop on ICPD Progress Review will inform evidence-based policies, strategies, and action plans to drive the ICPD agenda forward in Sindh Province.
Throughout the consultation, the Provincial Government of Sindh reaffirmed its dedication to giving utmost priority to the ICPD Programme of Action. They acknowledged its significance as a vital framework for promoting sustainable development and effectively managing population dynamics.
The ICPD Progress Review Consultation convened a diverse range of stakeholders from multiple sectors, including government officials, civil society organizations, academia, and development partners. Among the participants were representatives from the Ministry of Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives (MoPD&SI), UNFPA, Planning and Development Department, Population Welfare Department, and Health Department of the Government of Sindh.
However, addressing the challenges posed by Sindh’s growing population requires a sustained multi-sectoral approach, with full political ownership and effective governance. Qasim Soomro, Sindh Parliamentary Health Secretary, emphasized the need for a comprehensive population policy, stating that it is a national priority and integral to Pakistan’s sustainable development.
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Bayramgul Garabayeva, Head of the UNFPA Sindh office, highlighted the mounting pressure on the government to meet the increasing demands for food, schools, health facilities, jobs, and infrastructure resulting from the rapidly growing population. She emphasized the importance of collaborative efforts to ensure the government can keep pace with these demands.
The Consultative Workshop shed light on the inadequate domestic expenditure on family planning in Pakistan, which falls short of meeting the growing population’s needs. Experts stress the necessity of increasing the allocation of public funds to support sustainable family planning programs, including the procurement of commodities, service delivery, demand creation, and training.
The Government of Sindh, in coordination with UNFPA, expressed its commitment to working closely with all stakeholders in the province to accelerate progress, address existing gaps, and bring about positive change in the lives of the people of Sindh. It is evident that concerted efforts are required to tackle the population challenges and ensure a sustainable future for Sindh.