ISLAMABAD: Around 40 prominent ulema, belonging to all schools of thought, have endorsed the concept of birth spacing as a mean to save the life of a mother and child.

Participating in a meeting organised by the Population Council in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Tuesday, they were unanimous in their views that birth spacing should be considered as a basic right of mothers to ensure their health.

According to health experts, birth spacing helps a woman recover from the nutritional deficiency caused by pregnancy, and short birth intervals increases neonatal mortality rate.

They stress that it is beneficial for the health of women to have the first child late and give three to five years space in pregnancy.

The religious scholars also endorsed the contraceptive methods prescribed by medical practitioners.

Imam Badshahi Masjid and Chairman Interfaith Council for Peace and Harmony Maulana Abdul Kabir Azad said Islam had given high status to women especially mothers but they did not get that status in the society which was against the teachings of Islam.

“It is a tragedy that mother and infants die because of repeated and closely-spaced pregnancies. The Holy Quran clearly says that mothers should breastfeed their children for two years so as to allow them to space pregnancies,” he said.

“According to Islamic teachings if we save one life it is equal to saving the entire humanity. Death of mothers due to pregnancy-related complications should not be ignored,” he said.

Former federal minister Javed Jabbar said a number of Muslim countries had achieved success in improving their health indicators by involving religious leaders in health promotion activities.

“Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kuwait and even Bangladesh have better health indicators compared to Pakistan,” he said.

“In Pakistan, population welfare was ignored by most of governments. There are only 3,000 population welfare outlets all over the country but even those outlets face problem of staff and other issues,” he said.

Mr Jabbar said there were 19,000 health outlets in Pakistan i.e. rural health centres and basic health units, but they did not provide facility of population welfare.

“Federal and provincial governments should provide the facility of population welfare from health outlets,” he said.

Earlier, Director Programmes, Population Council, Dr Ali Mohammad Mir in his briefing said as many as 13,000 mothers die every year due to complications during pregnancy.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Ali said religious scholars had different views on family planning but they were unanimous that birth spacing was allowed for the health of the mother.

Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2014

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