ISLAMABAD: Overpopulated areas may have lesser and poorer healthcare, and lack of services so they may be impacted more deeply by climate change and that is what we see on the ground, said Pathfinder International’s Dr. Ayesha Rasheed, discussing the link between climate change and overpopulation at a policy roundtable organised by Tabadlab.
“This is where the poorest will be hit the hardest because they are overpopulated, undernourished, will have higher mortality and morbidity rates among women and children — and that is really the impact of climate change,” she added.
The idea behind the roundtable ‘Family Planning as a Vital Element of Climate Resilience and Social Justice’ was to understand how the frameworks of climate resilience and social justice can pave the way for a sustainable and resilient future in Pakistan.
Responding to a question on whether disaster preparedness and response should include family planning services, Dr. Rasheed said: “Absolutely yes. The immediate needs of the women and children are usually deprioritised in the form of relief efforts that benefit the whole population. The reproductive health needs of women are last on the agenda – who really thinks of family planning and contraceptive commodities at a time when flood relief is going on. We think that that’s a time when women and children are most at risk of ill health.”
Joining Dr. Rasheed on the panel were Dr. Adil Najam, the Dean Emeritus and Professor, Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University, Population Council’s Senior Associate and Pakistan Country Director Dr. Zeba Sathar, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre CEO Dr. Faisal Sultan and climate change expert Anam Zeb.
The roundtable was moderated by Tabadlab’s Director Impact Samia Liaquat Ali Khan.
Addressing climate change and population, the panel discussed if there should be a link from the policy perspective?
This topic sparked a passionate debate on forcing linkages between two important but ultimately separate issues. Global GHG emissions are highly skewed towards the developed world which supports the argument that the onus of mitigating climate change is also on high-income countries. From a climate justice perspective, ensuring the vulnerable have adequate means to adapt to the impacts of climate change is also the moral responsibility of the top global contributors.
The panel discussed reproductive health rights and needs in Pakistan at length. The conversation was led by Dr. Sathar who said: “Reproductive rights are essential and dealing with such a high population growth rate is damaging our development agenda and it should be central to our development agenda.”
Adding to this, she said: “Poor are hardest to reach in our country and services are not reaching them.”
An essential part of this conversation is to understand that the problem exists in Pakistan. Statistics show that there is an unmet need for family planning in the country. This means that a part of the solution is not merely to create awareness about family planning from a rights-based perspective, but to service the existing demand and need for effective contraception.
Talking about family planning and population welfare, the panel said that the country’s ability to bear the burden of its growing population and the vulnerabilities they experience is limited. The current system is unable to serve those who need help which includes, making family planning education and services like modern contraception available to marginalised communities. Major roadblocks include the inability to geographically co-locate services to those most in need, non-prioritisation of family planning counseling by doctors to their patients, and the lack of financing and poor structuring of service delivery.
“To build resilience into the health and population systems and enable them to deliver what they need to deliver, we need to address chronic underfunding.” Dr. Sultan.
Talking about the ability of the healthcare system to cater to the population in Pakistan, he explained “during COVID-19, our healthcare system delivered 2.3 million doses in a single day. Aligning and unlocking roadblocks will make our healthcare system which barely delivers, deliver but for that policies have to be consistent”.
The panel also discussed family planning and population welfare along with family planning in natural disasters.
Tabadlab is an advisory services firm and think tank that enables leaders, institutions, and firms to achieve better outcomes for all. Tabadlab’s approach to understanding change focuses on the intersection of data and evidence, strategic communication and persuasion, and political engagement.
About the Tabadlab Policy Roundable
Tabadlab Policy Roundtables convene experts and stakeholders at a single platform for a series of high-quality, intellectual, balanced, and informed conversations around key issues at a local and regional level.