‘Govt attaching high priority to population welfare programme’

‘Govt attaching high priority to   population welfare programme’
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ISLAMABAD: Pakistani children are experiencing chronic malnutrition, as three in 10 children are underweight or too thin for their age, said Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar. 
Speaking at a seminar on Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS) on Wednesday, she said that four in 10 women aged between 15 and 49 years were overweight, and were at risk of catching diseases like diabetes and heart problems.
She said the government was attaching high priority to the population welfare programme in the country. “After devolution, the responsibility has now been shifted to the provinces; however, the federal government is closely monitoring the population welfare programme in provinces and providing all necessary support to them.” 
She said that as a result of the support, survey results show some very promising improvements in few areas. “The results also highlight how much more work we have to do.”
She said that the survey shows that 46 per cent of the children below two years of age were still not fully immunised. 
“Infant and child mortality is still high in the country. Forty-eight per cent of the babies are delivered by unskilled persons, and more than half of the babies are not delivered in health facilities.”
She said that the survey was unique in the sense that it offered credible and reliable data on a wide range of issues and indicators including child immunisation, reproductive health, nutrition, migration, violence against women, knowledge and attitude towards family planning, and other socio-economic indicators at the provincial level.
Saira further said that in the absence of a fresh population census and demographic surveys, the PDHS 2012-13 data was very important and timely for facilitating policy development, formulating plans and strategies and carrying out research at different levels. 
The survey report would provide us with critical guidance in making progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and other goals and targets in the area of health and population welfare, she said.
She elaborated that Pakistan with a population of 188 million was the 6th most populous country in the world, and with the current growth rate of around two per cent, the population would reach 210 million by the year 2020. “The current growth rate is one of the highest in the region after Afghanistan. We are also behind in various socio-economic indicators in the region mainly due to high population growth.”
The minister appreciated the survey team that braved unfriendly weather and hospitable conditions – exposing themselves to all kinds of risks – in accomplishing this important task.
She further said that international partners deserved special gratitude for their invaluable financial and technical assistance, “especially the US ambassador’s keen interest in this important initiative and vital assistance provided by the USAID was instrumental in making the survey possible”. 
She also thanked the ICF International for providing technical support for the purpose. 
She expressed confidence that the information available through this survey would be widely used. She called upon the provincial governments, partner agencies and other stakeholders to make effective use of this valuable data in drafting guiding policy and future planning.

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