Once touted as a role model for other countries to follow, the country’s family planning services it seems have not been up to the mark the last few years. According to the last Demographic Health Survey report completed in 2017, the total fertility rate (TRF) has remained unchanged for the last four years at 2.3. TRF indicates the average number of children a woman will have during her lifetime. Indeed, contraceptive usage also remains stuck at 62 percent.
A number of reasons are responsible for this. We have higher enrolment of girls in our schools, but drop out remains high which leads to early marriage and teenage pregnancy. Health experts have pointed out that during the last survey conducted in 2017, 20 respondents were visited by family planning officials once in last six months, which should have been once every two months. This trend tells us that family planning is not on the priority list of things to do for policymakers anymore and that is reflected in the lack of recruitment of family welfare assistants. The fact that there were 23,500 family welfare assistants on the government payroll in 1976—a number that has not increased over the last few decades reinforces the lack of commitment to control population.
We are told by authorities that they are trying to improve the situation by making adolescents more aware of family planning, but it is not merely about recruiting more personnel. There has to be greater budgetary allocation in health and education where family planning campaigns are conducted on a national scale throughout the year and covers areas where adolescence pregnancy is most rampant.