By Basit Ali Khan
Recent data shows that Pakistan’s population is swelling faster than any other country, except Afghanistan, in the region, partially due to the failure of family planning programmes.
Pakistan Economic Survey 2013-2014 data shows that with 188 million people, Pakistan stands the sixth most populous country in the world and it is growing every day. Due to poor family planning and lack of an effective government strategy for controlling birth rates, Pakistan’s population is increasing day by day. Pakistan ranks second to the bottom for family planning in the region because of poor access to birth control. The contraceptive rate in Pakistan is only 38%, meaning only four in ten women of childbearing age use modern contraceptives. Whereas, in the region, over half of women use modern contraceptives. Pakistan beats out only Afghanistan where only three in ten women use contraceptives. Sri Lanka stands at the top with the seven out of 10 women using birth control.
In 2012, five out of 10 women in the region used contraceptives compared to three out of 10 in Pakistan. At the same time, Sri Lanka was at the top of the list with seven out of 10 women using contraceptives. In 2014, the rate of the region grew four points, with over half of women accessing contraceptives for the first time. Whereas In Pakistan, still only four out of 10 women accessed contraceptives, a 3% increase. Afghanistan experienced the greatest jump over that period, an 8% increase from only two in 10 women to nearly three in 10 women accessing contraceptives.
Contraceptives include pills, condoms, female and male sterilization and other birth control methods. In Pakistan, as per the UN Report Trends in Contraceptive Use Worldwide, one in 10 people use condoms for birth control. Almost as many people utilize female sterilization. Withdrawal is the third most common form of birth control, used by 8 percent of women. Most women use no form of birth control at all.
Lack of birth control result in an uncontrolled fertility rate for women. If birth control use is low, women have more children than they planned for. The fertility rate is defined as number of children born to each woman. Currently, in South Asia, the fertility rate is three which means each woman has an average of three children. In Afghanistan, the average woman has five children. In Pakistan, the average woman has four children.
One more consequence of lack of contraceptive use and high fertility rate is a growing population The annual growth rate of the population is the rate at which the number of individuals in a population increases in a period of a year. Regionally, for every 200 people, there are three more than the year before. In Pakistan, the annual growth rate is four, which means there are four new people for every 200 people the previous year, behind only Afghanistan at six. Population growth puts a strain on already weak government services like health care and education, as these systems need to expand to serve more people.
Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey show many reasons for stopping or not properly adopting contraceptive measures. The top reason for discontinuation of contraceptives is women’s willingness to have additional children. Three in 10 women in Pakistan want to become pregnant. Two in 10 women avoid contraceptives measure because they are scared of its side effects. Nearly as many women are not using contraceptives properly and become pregnant while using them. Partially due to these reasons, contraceptive use is not more widespread and the population continues to balloon.