KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that the province is facing the dual problems of birth rate increase and migration from within and other countries which is posing a serious challenge to the shrinking resource base on one side and job creation, managing food and housing, health and educational facilities on the other.
He said keeping in view our limited resources in contrast to the increasing population, it was of utmost importance to create a balance between the population size and resource base.
The chief minister stated this while presiding over a Sindh Population Task Force meeting here at CM House on Thursday. He said the task force, a follow-up of a decision taken by the Council of Common Interests and suo motu by the Supreme Court, consisted of eminent citizens and highly experienced professionals from the public sector and development partners.
The meeting was attended among others by Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho, Education Minister Syed Sardar Shah, Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, principal secretary to CM Sajid Jamal Abro, provincial secretaries, focal person of the Sindh Task Force Dr Talib Lashari, representatives of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID and Aga Khan Hospital.
Referring to the achievements of the task force, the chief minister said he hoped the task force would continue to build upon those achievements and would come up with policy guidelines and practical approaches in due course of time.
Dr Talib Lashari, giving a presentation at the meeting, said that Pakistan was on the top in population growth rate in Asian countries. However, he said, the working group chaired by the health minister had taken major decisions such as functional integration of the health and population departments; task sharing of lady health workers and health visitors and distribution of free contraceptives to relevant nongovernmental organisations and appropriate health facilities for post-pregnancy family planning.
It was also pointed out that Sindh’s population rate was 2.4 per cent per annum and the fertility decline was too slow, which was recorded at 3.8 in 2012-13 and 3.6 in 2017-18 while fertility rate in Punjab was 3.4; in KP and Balochistan it was four.
The meeting decided to take effective measures to achieve 45 per cent of contraceptive prevalence rate, which is 35pc at present.
The chief minister said that beside the regular budget to family planning programmes, the provincial government was funding the Costed Implementation Plan costing Rs2.15 billion, which could be increased when needed.
The chief minister said that Sindh reported one polio case in Karachi in 2018, which was a historical low for the province and no case had been reported this year, but still all six districts of Karachi were being classified as “districts of high risk” for which “we have to take strict measures to bring the menace to zero”.
He declared polio vaccination mandatory in all public and private schools and added that the schools which refused immunity measures against polio would face strict actions.
When the meeting was informed that out of 7.3 million children, 17,500 were missed out (refusals and not present at home), the chief minister expressed displeasure over it saying that though it was not a “big deal”, even then we could not tolerate this refusal.
He directed the chief secretary to take drastic measures so that no family could refuse to immunise their children. “This is a jihad for saving our future generations and our people and even schools refused to immunise their children,” he said.
Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2019