Raising awareness and prioritising family planning in the Covid era

The Government of Uttar Pradesh, through the National Health Mission, has adopted a three-pronged strategy to address population growth in the state on World Population Day.

 |  5-minute read |   13-07-2021
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World Population Day is an annual event observed on July 11 across the world to raise awareness and focus on the importance and urgency of family planning, poverty, maternal health, sexual and reproductive health, gender-based inequities and human rights. On this day in 1987, in acknowledgement of the world’s population reaching 5 billion, it was decided by the Governing Council of the United National Development Programme to designate the day as World Population Day for creating awareness about population-related issues. This is a day for celebrating human capital and creating awareness about key issues like family planning.

The theme for this year very appropriately is to ‘raise awareness on women's and girls' needs for sexual and reproductive health and vulnerabilities during the pandemic’. This is very relevant, as efforts are undertaken to build back better, leveraging the progress made in this direction while also continuing our commitment towards better reproductive health and rights of girls and women during the Covid-19 catastrophe.

main1_covid-19_crowd_071321015719.jpgIndia, with an estimated population size of 1.37 billion, has the second largest population in the world. (Photo: Reuters)

India, with an estimated population size of 1.37 billion, has the second largest population in the world, and with the current population growth rate, it will overtake China as the most populous country before 2027, according to World Bank. This, more than ever, is the time to invest in our human capital and reaffirm our commitment to strengthening improved health facilities with a focus on respectful care. Covid-19 has further reminded us of the need for a strong primary healthcare system as the basic building block for working towards our commitments to the SDGs.

One-sixth of India’s population, estimated to be 241 million, lives in Uttar Pradesh and almost half of them are girls and women. The impact of Covid-19 has exacerbated and deepened already existing gender inequalities. While we have tried to ensure equity in services and care for girls and women, we all need to work collectively on all aspects including financial independence, mobility and health. This is an opportunity for collective engagement for responding to the unmet need for family planning especially for younger and lower parity couples while we also work relentlessly on ensuring Covid vaccines across the state.

Data from National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16 indicates that the family planning program coverage, in general, is very low in northern and eastern parts of the state. They have a low modern Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (mCPR), low Family Planning (FP) use for spacing, and high unmet need for family planning. Also, the districts in the south-western part of the state have higher mCPR, higher FP-use for spacing but also showed a higher unmet need for spacing, which indicates the need for strengthening supply-side for FP services whereas the districts in the eastern and south-eastern parts of the state with low mCPR, high unmet need for spacing, and low demand satisfaction by modern methods, highlighting the need for planning and implementation of both demand and supply-side interventions.

main_covid-19-family_071321015850.jpgOne-sixth of India’s population, estimated to be 241 million, lives in Uttar Pradesh and almost half of them are girls and women. (Representative photo: Reuters)

Despite these challenges and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) played a critical role in not only identifying families with returning migrants and supporting them, but also spreading and reinforcing preventive measures, the importance of wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. ASHAs led the example in the villages by being the first ones to get vaccinated. They are at the forefront as Corona Warriors. They raised awareness, dispelled myths around Covid-19 and bridged the gap between information and access to treatment. They have been instrumental in ensuring successful Antraal Diwas (Interval Day) focusing on young and low-parity couples by providing counselling on spacing, availability of various family planning services and commodities and assisting them in making informed choices. These constant efforts have ensured that such couples when they resume their economic activities, they are able to plan their families accordingly.

The NFHS data (2015-16) for Uttar Pradesh reflects the need and importance to focus our interventions and innovations on the younger population. It is critical to also work on improved nutrition and better education opportunities so that they become positive contributors to their family income and take informed decisions about planning their families with meaningful involvement of other family members. The Government of Uttar Pradesh, through the National Health Mission, has adopted a three-pronged strategy to address population growth, ethically and empowering:

1. Prioritising Young & Low-Parity Couples during the monthly celebration of Khushhal Parivar Diwas and weekly Antraal Diwas

2. Distribution of Shagun Kits to newly married couples in the state

3. Observing Surakshit Matritva Diwas every month to ensure safe deliveries, nutrition and family planning services.

We have ensured that all the health-related services are resumed with Covid-19 protocols in place — social distancing, wearing masks, provision of hand sanitisers and soaps for washing hands, and free vaccinations for all. The state has focused on vaccination and innovations in ensuring the Covid-19 vaccine reaches the last mile. Redistribution of supplies, FP kits, PPE kits for community health workers is put back in place to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

As Mahatma Gandhi had once said and what has been echoed by our Hon’ble Prime Minister, “One must care about the world one will not see.” The Government of Uttar Pradesh is leaving no stone unturned in implementing empowering family planning services, boosting gender equality for sustainable population growth and development, and thereby playing an imperative role towards building ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’.

Also Read | World Population Day: How Covid-19 risks reversal of progress made on gender equality

Writer

Jai Pratap Singh Jai Pratap Singh @jpbansi

The author is the Minister of Medical and Health, Family Welfare, Mother and Child Welfare, Government of Uttar Pradesh.

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