Minister for Health & Population Welfare, Sindh

It is a matter of immense pleasure that we are celebrating World Population Day with a renewed commitment and enthusiasm. The theme of this year is “25 Years of the ICPD (International Conference on Population Development): Accelerating the Promise”. Twenty Five years ago, leaders from 179 countries gathered at Cairo including ShaheedMohtarma Benazir Bhutto, then Prime Minister of Pakistan. At the Summit, these leaders unanimously declared that reproductive health and gender equality is vital for sustainable development. This pledge has also reflected into the agenda of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the commitments under FP2020.

We can relate World Population Day and International Conference on Population Development (ICPD) held in 1994 through words of ShaheedMohtarma Benazir Bhutto reverberated atthe ICPD, Cairo that “I dream of a Pakistan, of an Asia, of a World, where every pregnancy is planned and every child conceived is nurtured, loved, educated, and supported”.

Since convening of ICPD, the Governments of Sindh led by Pakistan People’s Party have been showing strong commitment towards reproductive health and family planning. Even one year prior to ICPD, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto initiated the landmark program of Lady Health Workers. During preceding years, there has been a series of initiatives that have positioned Sindh at the forefront of reforms in population sector.

The Population Policy of Sindh has been developed that envisions to contribute towards Sustainable Development Goals and FP2020. Moreover, in pursuance of FP2020 commitments made by Pakistan in 2012, the Government of Sindh has developed its Costed Implementation Plan (CIP). The CIP is not only 1st Five Year Plan of Population Policy but it’s an umbrella Plan bringing together family planning related initiatives of Population Welfare Department, Department of Health and its programs like LHWs; PPHI; development partners; and private sector.

For policy guidance and oversight during implementation of CIF) a Sindh FP2020 Working Group has been established chaired by me. This forum has become a higher level accountability platform where family planning initiatives are reviewed on quarterly basis. Far reaching reforms have been introduced in population sector of Sindh under guidance from Sindh FP2020Working Group i.e. integrating health and population departments through one Minister for both the departments; streamlining role of LHWs by allowing them to administer first dose of injectable contraceptive; introducing Life Skills Based Education for engaging adolescents, and youth; emphasizing on Post Pregnancy Family Planning (PPFP) and Post Abortion care Family Planning and other initiatives. We know that improving family planning indicators have direct bearing on maternal and child health.

Last year, Council of Common Interests (CCI) approved recommendations of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. These recommendations are already being implemented in Sindh even before Suo Moto of the Hon. Court. For instance, the Chief Minister Sindh has set up a “Sindh Population Taskforce” as part of CCI recommendations. The first meeting was held in February this year. Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2013 is being implemented. Furthermore, Reproductive Health Rights Bill, 2019 has been approved by the Cabinet. The Premarital Counseling Bill, 2019 has also been drafted and sent to Law Department for vetting.

Sindh has resolved the issue of commodity security. In this regard, 210,000 units of Long Acting method of Jaddelle and 285,000 units of short acting method of Sayana Press – a new method – have also been procured. Trainings on Post Pregnancy Family Planning (PPFP) and administration of Sayana Press are under way. The Sayana press has already been rolled out in three districts expanding to all districts of Sindh by the end of the year.

We are putting lot of emphasis on counseling of clients so that a range of methods is available and client may be able to select a method based on informed choice. In this regard, 174 counselors will be placed in hospitals by establishing Family Planning Corners. In line with National Narrative on population, a Sindh Narrative has been developed. In order to materialize the Narratives, a Communication and Advocacy Strategy has been designed.

The World Population Day, 2019 provides us an opportunity of stock taking of these reforms and move forward with a resolve to achieve our policy objectives of FP2020 and SDGs in a timely manner.