Karachi: With an average annual growth rate of 2.41 percent in Sindh, the total current population is 56.3 million (2022), estimated to grow to 95.7 million by 2050. 3,000 maternal deaths occur annually due to insufficient health coverage, which can be reduced by 33 percent if contraceptive use rises from 31 percent to 49 percent.

Total fertility rate in Sindh is 3,6 and high fertility contributes to infant mortality and malnutrition. As a result, 60 infants die before reaching one year of age (per 1000 live births) and 50 percent of children under the age of five are stunted in Sindh.

Currently, more than half of the girls at 51 percent (age 5-16), are out of school in Sindh, together with 39 percent of boys. Without investment in family planning, women’s empowerment and education it will be challenging to accommodate the growing population.

These findings were shared at the Consultative Workshop on Voluntary National Survey and International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held on Thursday, 25th May in Karachi by the Federal Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The consultation aimed to assess the progress made at the provincial level in the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action.

The consultation highlighted the significant strides made in advancing reproductive health, promoting gender equality, and empowering women and girls in Sindh Province. It also recognized the critical role of comprehensive sexuality education, access to quality healthcare services, and the elimination of gender-based violence in achieving sustainable development goals.

Participants of the consultative meeting held different sessions to  discuss the issues, challenges, and ways forward to accelerate progress on women and youth empowerment, reproductive health and reproductive rights, population and sustainable development, education, food security, climate change, urbanization and internal migration, etc.

“The consultations are facilitating diverse views on human rights, population, sexual and reproductive health, gender equality and sustainable development. These will be merged into a remarkable consensus that places individual dignity and human rights, including the right to plan one’s family, at the very heart of development,” said UNFPA head of office in Sindh Ms. Ms. Bayramgul Garabayeva.

The ICPD Progress Review Consultation brought together key stakeholders from various sectors, including government officials, civil society organizations, academia, and development partners, representatives of Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives (MoPD&SI), UNFPA, Planning and Development Department, Population Welfare Department, Health Department Government of Sindh.

Participants engaged in fruitful discussions, sharing valuable insights, and reviewing the achievements, challenges, and opportunities related to the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action in Sindh Province.

Going forward, a sustained multi-sectoral approach with full political ownership and effective governance is crucial to advance the agenda. Mr Qasim Soomro, Sindh Parliamentary Health Secretary, said that making population policy implementation a national priority and an overarching framework is important for Pakistan’s sustainable development.

Talking about the current state of Sindh’s population UNFPA Head of Sindh office Ms Bayramgul Garabayeva  said that a rapidly growing population means ever-increasing demands for food, schools, health facilities, jobs and infrastructure, and rising pressure on the government to keep pace in providing these services at an equally fast rate.

During the consultation, the Provincial Government of Sindh reiterated its commitment to prioritizing the ICPD Programme of Action, recognizing it as a crucial framework for sustainable development and population management.

The collaboration with UNFPA has been instrumental in supporting the provincial government’s efforts in this regard, providing technical assistance, expertise, and resources to ensure the effective implementation of the programme.

The current domestic expenditure on family planning in Pakistan is insufficient to meet the population’s growing demands.

For family planning programmes to be successful and sustainable, there needs to be an increase in the allocation of public funds with a strong national capacity to implement programs, including the capacity to mobilise and spend the financial resources for family planning commodities, service delivery, demand creation, and training.

The outcomes of the ICPD Progress Review Consultation will contribute to the formulation of evidence-based policies, strategies, and action plans for advancing the ICPD agenda in Sindh Province.

The Government of Sindh, in coordination with UNFPA, will work closely with all stakeholders in Sindh province to accelerate progress, address existing gaps, and drive positive change in the lives of the people of Sindh.