Karachi is a colossal city whose boundaries continue to expand as more and more people keep migrating to it from all over the country. Official statistics put its population at somewhere between 15 to 19 million. Despite the discrepancy in figures, it is clear that the overcrowding of the city is putting a huge strain on its resources.
While trends in migratory patterns were believed to be the main reason behind this, Sindh Minister for Health and Population Welfare Dr Azra Pechuho also shared how data showed the contraceptive prevalence rate in the city had gone down by 3%, while that of rural areas had risen by 4%.
“We had not been focusing on Karachi. It was evident that we needed to make a separate plan for the city,” Dr Pechuho said, explaining the reasoning behind the Karachi Urban Plan for population control to SAMAA Digital.
This initiative is part of Sindh’s Costed Implementation Plan (CIP) for family planning. It would involve a thorough mapping of Karachi to see where facilities for family planning already existed and where they were lacking. The latter could be assisted by the family planning helpline ‘Poocho’.
The helpline i.e. 0800-11171 would help people who wished to plan their families but didn’t have access to resources or were not given the right information.
Elaborating on how the government didn’t want to establish new facilities, the health minister said they had signed a memorandum of understanding with 200 private hospitals to provide them with commodities free of charge.
“Apart from coordinating with the private sector we’re also doing post-pregnancy family planning (PPFP),” Dr Pechuho said, listing other population control initiatives in the pipeline.
Counters for PPFP would be established in all obstetric care government hospitals. These would dispense contraceptives, particularly long-acting ones for women, such as contraceptive patches and intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUCD). People would also be counselled on birth spacing in the OPD, labour room and wards.
As for the training of doctors, Dr Pechuho explained that skill labs were being developed to train postgraduates and doctors in PPFP. A more permanent solution would be vasectomy, or male sterilisation, but less than one per cent of the men opt for it here, she said.
The health minister said the government is taking all these measures with the aim of reducing both infant and maternal mortality. To help women in remote areas, small dispensaries with birthing facilities were also being set up. Six of them would be inaugurated in Tharparkar by the health minister on October 26.
A service cadre of community midwives, trained and employed by the Sindh health department, would take charge of them. For the most marginalised pregnant women, a system of conditional cash transfers is also being worked out with the help of the World Bank.