PWD fails to implement multisectoral population welfare programme

LAHORE: Due to the poor planning of Punjab government, the Punjab Population Welfare Department (PWD) has failed to implement the Multisectoral Population Welfare Programmme despite using 74 percent of the funds allocated for it, Pakistan Today has learned.

An official of the Directorate General of Monitoring and Evaluation (DG&ME) informed this scribe that population control in Pakistan has always been a difficult task and sometime ago a new plan had been drawn up to implement Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in terms of population, family planning (FP), healthy lives and well-being.

“Historically, the coverage of family planning services remained low in Punjab/Pakistan as FP service delivery network was largely limited to the Population Welfare Department (PWD).  However, there is now a clear understanding that the PWD alone cannot meet the family planning and reproductive health needs of the people or lower unmet need through its underutilised facilities. Expansion of access is only possible through a wider approach involving the health sector at all levels and a multisectoral response to include other line departments, NGOs and the private sector,” he said.

The official further informed that in this regard, PWD had taken six other government departments Specialized Healthcare & Medical Education Department (SH&MED), Primary & Secondary Healthcare Department (P&SHD), Women Development Department (WDD), Auqaf & Religious Affairs Department (A&RAD), Labour & Human Resource Department (L&HRD), Youth Affairs, Sports & Archeology Department (YAS&AD)) on board and launched the project tilted Multi-sectoral Population Welfare Programme Punjab (2018– June 2020).

The official further informed that the total cost of the project was Rs365 million, while Rs102.583 million were released to the project during the project gestation period (2019-2020), against which Rs75.478 million were utilised for various activities of the project. Overall, around 74 percent budget was utilised against total amount released to the project.

“The short term objectives of the projects were to improve and expand the FP service delivery network with a focus on quality of care and a multisectoral approach in order to Raise Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR) from 41 percent in 2012-13 (baseline) to contribute towards achieving FP 2020 targets of 55 percent. Similarly it was also planned to reduce unmet need for family planning and to make contribution towards decreasing Total Fertility Rate (TFR) from 3.8 (PDHS 2012-13) to 3.3 births per woman by 2020,” he added.

The official also informed that the long term objectives of the project were to ensure universal coverage of Reproductive Health (RH) Services, including family planning by 2030 in Punjab, and to improve the reproductive health indicators of the province especially maternal and child health outcomes and achieve the SDGs by 2030.

The official revealed that the project was implemented during 2019-20 so many project awareness activities like seminars at provincial and district level, village street theatre etc. training and other activities were affected due to Covid-19 pandemic, therefore many targets of the project could not be achieved.

“Given the ban on hiring of new staff and directions received from the Admin Department of PWD, recruitment of staff for the Project PMU could not be made. Similarly, different findings and surveys with Ulemas/religious scholars showed that most Ulemas (89 percent) were of the view that the knowledge gained through the family planning awareness sessions/trainings was in accordance with the teachings/principles of Islam, while about 11 percent were neutral. Most Ulemas were using this knowledge to create awareness among people of their area/elsewhere. Similarly, nearly all Ulemas have discussed this topic (family planning) in their Friday speech. However, only about a quarter of them discussed this topic in any marriage ceremony to create awareness among new couples/others,” he informed.

“This time the department had funds available but could not work on the project under the guise of Covid-19. Secondly, the government’s planning is so thorough that on the one hand, funds are released by starting a project and on the other hand, they impose a ban on hiring. The government should review this project and since this project is directly related to SGDs, all resources should be used to complete it,” he lamented.

However, DG&ME has also issued a report on this project in which they recommended that sustainability of this intervention.

Shahab Omer
The writer is a member of the staff and can be reached on [email protected]

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