PRIME Minister Benazir Bhutto is convinced that Pakistan cannot progress unless it succeeds in checking its rapid population growth. Approximately Rs 1,200 million ($39.2 million) will be disbursed to the provincial governments during fiscal year 1994-95 to be spent on a number of primary healthcare and family planning programmes.

Services are also provided through non-governmental organisations (NGOs), contributing about 20 per cent of total national coverage. A new national trust has been established by the government with an initial fund of Rs 100 million ($3.3 million) to work in tandem with the NGOs.

‘Since 1990, family planning has been set to take off, with a ground swell of opinion wanting it,’ says Attiya Inayatullah, president of the Family Planning Association of Pakistan and council member of the London- based International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). ‘We need to provide affordable and accessible services. Population is the future,’ she adds.

The national programme has been stimulated by the Cairo conference on population and development in September (MEED 16:9:94, Cover Story). The resolution from the conference, due to be issued in December, emphasises the right to control one’s family and sees the emancipation and empowerment of women as an important step towards providing family planning and the promoting of national development.

Pakistan’s target is to reduce the annual growth rate from 2.9 per cent to 2.6 per cent by 1998, when the population is projected to reach about 134 million. Some of the major programmes in progress are:

Social Action Programme. As part of a separate five-year project the government plans to spend $8,000 million; an estimated 4,000 village family planning workers will be recruited and trained, and 200 welfare centres set up by 1998. The number of mobile service units will double to 250.

The second family health project. This $82 million scheme aims to strengthen existing health services and set up district health centres in Punjab and Baluchistan.

Population and Welfare III. A scheme providing services with funding of more than £9 million ($13.5 million) from the UK’s Overseas Development Administration (ODA)

The Prime minister’s programme. Approximately 33,000 health workers will be recruited and trained in primary healthcare.

Schemes under consideration are:

National population programme. The World Bank is proposing to lend $80 million towards a programme to extend coverage, improve service quality and stimulate demand.

Private-sector population project. In mid-November the government approved an initiative from the ODA aimed at the less impoverished urban communities. Consultants will carry out an initial study into the possibility of charging for contraception in urban areas. The estimated project cost is £6 million ($9 million).

In addition to the huge financial support pledged by institutions such as the World Bank, the ODA and the Asian Development Bank, Pakistan’s fight against its rising population has attracted the backing of the US government with a recent offer of $10 million in grants.