Global Efforts Highlight Unmet Contraceptive Needs In Pakistan 

Shockingly, over 21% of married women in Pakistan who wish to avoid pregnancy lack access to effective contraception.

Global Efforts Highlight Unmet Contraceptive Needs In Pakistan 

As the world commemorates global initiatives aimed at empowering individuals in matters of reproductive health, the theme ‘The Power of Options’ brings attention to a pressing concern affecting millions in Pakistan—the unmet contraceptive need.

With a population exceeding 220 million, Pakistan ranks as the fifth most populous country globally. Despite significant progress across various sectors, a substantial segment of the population grapples with unmet contraceptive needs.

Shockingly, over 21% of married women in Pakistan who wish to avoid pregnancy lack access to effective contraception. This stark reality not only impacts individual lives but also places immense strain on socio-economic systems.

The issue of unmet contraceptive needs is a complex challenge, interwoven with clinical, societal, and communication barriers. Clinical facilities in remote regions may lack the essential resources and trained personnel, creating obstacles for women seeking contraceptives. Societal norms and cultural taboos contribute to the sensitivity surrounding family planning discussions, further complicating the issue.

Furthermore, unmet contraceptive needs have far-reaching implications, including a higher fertility rate leading to rapid population growth, particularly risky for young mothers. Maternal mortality rates remain alarmingly high in Pakistan, predominantly due to unintended pregnancies.

Realizing universal contraceptive access hinges on the active involvement of diverse stakeholders. Robust policies and government advocacy are central to addressing unmet contraceptive needs. Pakistan must establish comprehensive, well-implemented policies to ensure method availability and cultivate an enabling environment.

Despite considerable political will, including a national commitment endorsed by the president to raise the contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) to 50% by 2025, it has plateaued at around 30-35%, the lowest in South Asia.

Advocacy efforts must urgently dismantle cultural barriers, diminish stigma, and heighten awareness, supported by ample funding, proficient healthcare professionals, and accessible facilities. Collaborative endeavors with civil society, international agencies, and community leaders are imperative for forging a supportive family planning ecosystem.

The Delivering Accelerated Family Planning in Pakistan (DAFPAK) initiative, led by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), stands out as a cross-sectoral endeavor making significant strides since its establishment in 2017.

With a primary focus on enhancing access to high-quality family planning information and services, especially in underserved regions and among marginalized groups, DAFPAK has reached millions nationwide.

At the forefront of DAFPAK’s outreach is its communication platform, KhairKhwah. The platform disseminates vital family planning information through electronic, print, digital, and outreach channels. It has not only reshaped perceptions but also dismantled barriers, increasing awareness and access to contraceptives.

While commendable efforts are underway, much remains to be achieved. Universal access to contraception demands sustained commitment from all stakeholders—government, civil society, healthcare providers, and communities. We require comprehensive, intersectoral approaches that address not only the supply-side challenges but also the demand-side barriers, such as cultural norms and lack of awareness.

Investing in family planning transcends health; it is an investment in Pakistan’s socio-economic development. By addressing unmet contraceptive needs, we can reduce maternal mortality rates significantly, empower women in the workforce, and stimulate economic growth.

On this World Contraception Day, let us reaffirm our dedication to family planning as a fundamental human right. Let us unite to forge a future where every Pakistani has access to quality contraception, and where individuals are empowered to make informed choices about their reproductive health. Together, we can construct a healthier, more prosperous Pakistan for generations to come.