Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world with a population of 220.89 million and increasing. This is an alarming situation for a young, underdeveloped country like ours with meagre financial resources and a large disparity between the classes.
Overpopulation poses a threat to the country’s economy, resources, and the well-being of its citizens.
It goes without saying that Pakistan’s population dilemma is adversely affecting the ability of its people to – among other things – access good healthcare and education facilities.
Leading Causes of Growth in Population
1. Underage Marriages
68 percent of Pakistan’s population is under the age of 30. According to UNICEF, 3 per cent of the country’s young girls are married before their fifteenth birthday, while about 21 per cent are married before the age of 18 years!
Poverty, coupled with regressive patriarchal values serve as the biggest reasons for early marriages across Pakistan.
Child marriages leading to early pregnancies not only adversely impact a girl-child’s mental health and her social standing but also put the life of the mother and her child at risk, propelling an increase in maternal and neonatal deaths as well as stillbirths and miscarriages.
According to research, in Pakistan, mothers are three times more likely to have low hemoglobin, have a lower pre-pregnancy body mass index causing complications in pregnancy and childbirth. It is the second leading cause of mortality amongst girls in the 15-19 age group.
2. Lack of Awareness
Staggering economy, poor healthcare facilities, limited access to Basic Health Units and lack of proper education are among the leading causes for an ever expanding population.
People in Pakistan are vastly unaware of the concepts of Family Planning and the methods of birth spacing.
Family members and peers serve as the primary sources for information regarding reproductive health for young adults in Pakistan.
Illiteracy and lack of basic knowledge regarding intervals leads to one birth after another with little gap in between children.
The health scares are not limited to girls and women only. Men are also at risk owing to a lack of proper guidance about reproductive health, hygiene and use of contraceptives.
Misinformed choices are one of the leading causes of sexually transmitted diseases in the country.
3. The Concept Of Family Planning
There is little to no guidance about the concept and practice of Family Planning in Pakistan. Reports suggest that 17 per cent of the married women in Pakistan currently have an unmet need for family planning in Pakistan. Balochistan has the highest unmet need for Family Planning services, i.e. 22 per cent.
In Pakistan, women are largely unaware of contraceptives and birth control methods. In the majority of the cases of underaged marriages, women have little say in childbirth (number of children and spacing between each child birth) and family planning, which shows how fertility rate is still high and most births in the country are occurring among women of ages between 15 to 29.
Pakistan’s Population Issues: What Needs To Be Done
- Proper counseling regarding hygiene and sexual and reproductive health for both males and females in schools is essential. Training facilities should be introduced for proper guidance on puberty and dealing with the overwhelming emotional bodily responses.
Out of school adolescents must be reached out by health workers. Lady Health workers should go door-to-door to train homebound girls.
- Introduction of accessible toll-free helpline numbers by the government for young children for mentoring and proper counseling.
- Young couples must have easy access to information about family planning, contraceptives, childbirth and spacing between children. Couples must be trained on the impending emotional trauma of early age pregnancies and the imminent healthcare protocols post pregnancy.
- Training and medical camps ought to be set-up to enlighten the youth on safe and protected intercourse to prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections and diseases in couples.
United Nations’ projections indicate that by 2050, Pakistan’s population will grow to a whooping 400 million. The ruling government and healthcare institutes must work in collaboration to curb the overwhelming population situation in Pakistan.