LAHORE - In the province of Punjab, which has set the target of reducing the population growth rate from 1.9 per cent per annum to 1.3 per cent by the year 2020, only 70 family health clinics are catering to the needs of nearly 100 million population.

“Out of total 119 family health clinics, 49 are non-functional because of non-availability of doctors. If the pay package of doctors serving in population welfare department is brought at par with those working in the health department, 49 non-functional centres could be made operational,” said Population Welfare Secretary Altaf Ezad Khan in an interview to Nawa-i-Waqt.

Based on the present growth patterns and trends, he said, the population of Punjab is expected to double after 36 years. Keeping this likely future scenario in view, the Punjab government has planned to attain a balance between resources and population, by reducing population growth rate from 1.9 per cent per annum in 2004 to 1.3 percent per annum by the year 2020.

He said efforts would also be made to reduce fertility through enhanced voluntary contraceptive adoption to replacement level 2.1 births per woman by 2020 besides increasing contraceptive prevalence rate from 30 per cent to 60 per cent by 2020.

Talking about strategies, the government has devised to implement the set objectives, Altaf said his department has plans to develop and launch advocacy campaigns to address special groups, such as, policy makers, opinion leaders, youth and adolescents. Steps would also be taken to increase ownership of population issues by the stakeholders and strengthen their participation in the processes of service delivery and program design, he further stated.

He said the government would take necessary measures to increase the use of birth preventive drugs and contraceptives from exiting 36 per cent to 44 per cent by the year 2015.

Secretary Population said that adolescent pregnancy was another major issue to be addressed to control the population growth. Giving statistics, he said that 16 million girls in the world from 15 to 19 years of age have to undergo the process of giving birth to babies and hundreds of them lose their lives during the process. Around 70 million girls between the age of 15 and 19 are forced to perform the responsibilities of mother before they celebrate their 18th birthday, he added.

He said government also plans to reduce unmet need for family planning services by making available quality family planning & RH services to all married couples who want to limit or space their children. He said provision of quality services especially to the poor, under-served and un-served populations in rural areas and urban slums would also be ensured.

To a question, he said that government would expand the role of the private sector by making contraceptives accessible and affordable through social marketing of contraceptives and through local manufacture of contraceptives.

He said that awareness of the adverse consequences of rapid population growth both at the national, provincial, district and community levels would be increased.

“We would plan, organize and implement family planning, advocacy and service delivery activities through the family health clinics, mobile service units, family welfare centers, registered medical practitioners, Hakeems and Homoeopaths”, he concluded.