For some years, the German government has been supporting reproductive health in Pakistan by funding projects which offer comprehensive family planning services. 25% of married women in Pakistan have an unmet need for family planning. Maternal mortality is estimated at 276 deaths per 100,000 live births, and infant mortality is 78 deaths per 1000 live births. Financed by KfW with EUR 7.5 million, EPOS has been implementing the Rural Family Planning project since 2017. It promotes and markets modern contraceptive methods such as intra-uterine contraceptive devices IUDs and injectables in the provinces of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as well as in FATA and northern Punjab. The project is expected to increase the contraceptive prevalence rate at a national level by additionally providing more than 630,000 couple years of protection (CYPs). Awareness about modern family planning methods has been created through information and behavioral change measures - with proven success. In the first two years, more than 50,000 rural households were made aware of the methods and their benefits for women's health.
As long-term methods are not common in rural areas, training and qualification of service providers has been an important part of project activities. Several hundred women have been trained as family planning counsellors as well as in the insertion and use of IUCDs. In order to ensure customer satisfaction and acceptance, the project is procuring almost EUR 1 million worth of high-quality contraceptives. The intervention trio in awareness-raising, improved service and provision of quality contraceptives shall help the project to achieve its goals, e.g. to contribute to a reduction in the national total fertility rate by the end of the project in December 2019.
Promoting behavior change of both women and men is also supported, as well as the construction and/or modernization of more than 350 rural health facilities, in which women will receive detailed information on family planning methods, counselling and professional treatment. Of particular significance will be the construction of a 6-bed maternity home for the FATA region, where a rural population of more than 125,000 has minimal access to maternity services. The facility will provide high quality mother and child health care, reproductive health and family planning services. It will also serve as a referral base for five remote ‘Family Health Clinics’. One of the plans is to connect this 6-bed maternity home with the Family Health Hospitals in Gilgit and Islamabad through E-Health in cooperation with Aga Khan Health Services, Pakistan. Once operational, the facility will be key in helping to significantly reduce child and maternal mortality rates in the region.
The picture shows Dr. Masuma Zaidi, Senior Project Coordinator Health Sector at KfW and James Myers, EPOS Team Leader for the Rural Family Planning Project on an on-site visit.