KARACHI (APP) - Family planning is not just about population control it is also and more importantly about wanting healthy mothers and healthy children.

In a situation when “family planning” may almost always been viewed with scepticism in our country, it is heartening that the total fertility rate, meaning the number of children per woman on average has declined to float around 3.6, down from almost six.

Maternal and child morbidity have also declined but remain in the high range, as according to WHO estimates in 2011 infant mortality was 65.1 per 1,000 live births compared to 90 per 1,000 in 1999, whereas maternal mortality ratio stands at 276 per 100,000 in 2011 from 450 in 1999.

The major chunk of the improvement, experts said, began once policy makers pegged family planning to healthy mothers producing healthy babies.

Country Director for Pakistan Population Council Dr Zeba Sathar sharing her views in an advocacy seminar on family planning and reproductive health, organized by Aga Khan University (AKU) referred to campaigns initiated by policy makers.

“Bachay do hi achay” campaign proved counterproductive, however, there has been no opposition since family planning has been linked to maternal and child morbidity,” she said.

This is not irrelevant as some mothers in our country are so malnourished that they do not have the reserves to nourish their child.

Prof Anita Zaidi, a senior pediatrician and researcher reminds that infant mortality, meaning a child dying within the first year of life is also at a disturbing rate in Pakistan.

Worse still, is that about two thirds of infant mortalities are within the first month of life.

Experts warn that decisive action must be taken before the country’s robust population becomes a huge economic and social burden.

Even then according to Population Council’s Dr Sathar it will take another 10 to 15 years before Pakistan can stabilise its population.

Experts including Prof Siswanto Agus Wilopo, Centre for Reproductive Health, Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Gadjah Mada Yogyakarta, Indonesia, reiterated that family planning is consistent with the teaching of Islam and the Quran.

Quoting an excerpt from the Holy Book he mentioned that the Quran says women should breastfeed their children for at least two years.

“Medically if a woman is breastfeeding for two years it will biologically impact her ability to conceive,” he said, referring to experts who recommended two years as the period for child spacing.

Prof Wilopo was also of the opinion that the role of family planning was not about limiting children but rather about improving their health.

Indonesian experience also shows that the campaign “Two” children are enough replaced by Having two children is better than mourning two children achieved wider acceptance.

Importance of educating girls and women can also be ignored in empowering to control her fertility and contribute to her family’s well being at micro level as well as the nation’s prosperity at the macro level.

Experience in Bangladesh cannot be ignored where equal attention towards women education has markedly improved its health indicators specifically maternal, child and infant mortality are impressive.

Meanwhile, there are also families in Pakistan who want to use contraceptives but do not have access to them. This unmet need constitutes 25 per cent of women, and if met it can help lift the use of contraceptives to 60 per cent.

It was barely 20 years since policy makers in Pakistan have paid any serious attention to the issue.