Remarkably, the theme of the World Population Day, being observed today, is 'Family Planning is a Human Right'. Launched by the UNDP in 1989 with the goal of focusing on the urgent and important issues of population, it has come a long way to be recognised so globally for the first time during the observance of the 50th anniversary of the International Conference on Human Rights. The proclamation of the conference clearly stated: "Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children". Thus, the day carries special significance for a country like Bangladesh. This is also an occasion for reflection and stock-taking as well as for deliberating on future courses of action for a sustainable future by relevant stakeholders.
Over the past 47 years since the country's independence in 1971, Bangladesh has achieved considerable successes in the area of family planning. The contraceptive prevalence rate has increased from a mere 8.0 per cent in 1972 to 62 per cent currently. Whereas average number of children per couple was 6.2 in 1971, it has now come down to 2.3. Despite all these achievements, Bangladesh is still one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Around 5.8 million women become pregnant every year, but 48 per cent of these pregnancies are unplanned. As a result, just as abortions are on the rise, similarly maternal mortality rate at childbirth is also high. Experts opine that, at least, 40 per cent abortions could be avoided through improved delivery of family planning services at the grassroots level.
Around 23 per cent of the country's population are now adolescent girls. Therefore, the number of juvenile mothers needs to be brought down by curbing child marriages. Problems do also plague the supply of contraceptive materials like IUDs and implants. The number of field workers in the family planning sector is miserably inadequate to cater to the family planning needs of the country's population. The government should therefore take steps on an urgent basis to resolve these problems. It should undertake an elaborate review of the existing family planning manpower and then deploy additional personnel to meet the growing needs. The private sector and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can also be encouraged to play a more supportive role in the area.
Ignorance and superstitions play a part in unwanted pregnancies. There is, therefore, no alternative to undertaking information, education and motivation campaigns for improving the situation. The mass media, alongside the government, can also play a constructive role in generating awareness on the family planning issues. Additionally, family planning needs to be linked to the grooming of children and creation of educational opportunities for them. Ultimately, it is the government's responsibility to chalk out a comprehensive plan for proper upbringing of the country's young population. There should be no imposition in matters of family planning, but people should get required services and advice whenever and wherever needed.
This year's theme of World Population Day embodies nine basic standards or principles, viz. non-discrimination, availability, accessibility, acceptability, good quality, informed decision-making, privacy and confidentiality, participation and accountability. These should be rigorously pursued for improving family planning services in the country and achieving demographic objectives in order to realise the sustainable development goals.
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