Minister promises health plan to improve well-being, reproductive rights

Updated November 14, 2019

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Nairobi: Women from various informal settlements in Nairobi call for empowerment of women and girls at the grass-roots as they welcome delegates to the 25th International Conference on Population and Development on Wednesday.—AFP
Nairobi: Women from various informal settlements in Nairobi call for empowerment of women and girls at the grass-roots as they welcome delegates to the 25th International Conference on Population and Development on Wednesday.—AFP

PAKISTAN, represented by its health minister at the ongoing summit at Nairobi’s Kenyatta International Convention Centre, announced on Wednesday a time-bound plan of action to accelerate the country’s progress on individual well-being, reproductive health, empowerment of women and youth and gender equality.

Titled ‘Nairobi Summit on ICPD25: Accelerating the Promise’, the three-day event aims to mobilise the political will and financial commitments to implement the Programme of Action agreed to by 179 governments at the ICPD held in Cairo in 1994.

“We know that it is critical to meaningfully advance towards achieving access to sexual and reproductive health as an integral part of universal healthcare. In this connection, we aim to lower our total fertility rate from 3.8 births (per woman) to 2.8 births by 2025 and 2.2 by 2030,” said health minister Dr Zafar Mirza during his speech on the second day of the conference.

This target, he pointed out, would be achieved by simultaneously increasing contraceptive prevalence rate from 35 per cent to 50 per cent by 2025 and 60 per cent by 2030.

Expressing Pakistan’s commitment to reduce maternal mortality rate, one of the highest in the region, he said: “We aim to reduce maternal mortality rate from 170 to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030 by increasing skilled birth attendance, access to modern contraception and expanding services of lady health workers.”

He also reaffirmed government’s commitment to the Convention of the Rights of Children and said the government “is legislating and will enforce with full force Early Child Marriage Restrain Act and is adopting zero tolerance policy on violence against women and girls”.

Highlighting Pakistan’s achievements over the past 25 years, he said the country was able to increase antenatal care from 14pc to 51pc between 1990 and 2018. It also increased skilled birth attendance from 17 per cent to 69 per cent in the same period.

The minister also acknowledged the services of former UNFPA Executive Director Dr Nafis Sadik, the driving force behind the development of ICPD agenda in 1994, and that the then prime minister Benazir Bhutto participated in the watershed conference.

Speaking to Dawn later in the day, UNFPA-Pakistan representative Lina Mousa appreciated Pakistan’s participation in the high-level conference and said that the event had brought together people from diverse backgrounds and expertise, offering many learning opportunities to everyone.

“The issues being raised at the conference concern both the developing and developed nations. The gathering would help facilitate efforts to achieve the ICPD plan of action,” she said.

Other highlights of the conference from Pakistan’s perspective included an impressive solo performance by seasoned artist Sheema Kermani.

A talk by Razia Shamshad, a fistula survivor from Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab, was also part of the community sessions held throughout the day.

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2019