Staff shortage hits family planning programme
Indifferent attitude of the governments towards family planning programme has undermined the success that it achieved in 1980s while manpower shortage at the field level is making the sector more vulnerable.
Of the total 52,337 posts, some 3,699 posts remain vacant for a long time, tremendously hindering the activities particularly in the field level.
The family welfare assistants (FWAs) are the driving force of a family planning programme. The domiciliary services that they provided in 70s led the programme to attain a huge success in 80s. But now less attention is being given to them, said experts.
A post of the FWA was created to provide counseling and other services to 600 couple of a locality, which has risen to 1200 by this time, but the number of the FWAs remain unchanged.
Besides, many posts of the class one and class two employees are lying vacant due to cadre and non-cadre and doctors and non-doctors clash.
The experts blamed the situation on absence of the successive governments' commitment to this sector.
"The field level workers are overburdened with their works," said Ganesh Chandra Sarker, director of Information, Education and Monitoring (IEM).
"In addition to their scheduled activities, they have to remain busy with different works, which are actually the job of the health sector workers."
He said the family planning workers are engaged with various works during observance of different days like National Immunisation Day, World Heart Day and World Health Day.
"Currently they are forced to sit at community clinics for three days a week. Then how we can expect smooth running of the family planning programme," he questioned.
The last massive recruitment took place just ten years back in 2000. Some indiscriminate recruitment took place in the meantime. But the recruitment did not take place judging the actual field level situation, sources at the Directorate General of Family Planning said.
However, the DGFP authorities said some 1270 field level workers would be recruited within a year, which is 70 percent of the total vacant posts.
Instead of creating more posts adjusting the extended number of population, the government is just filling up some of the vacant posts.
Currently there are some 23,000 workers in the field level including SACMOs, FPIs, FWAs, family welfare visitors (FWVs) and nurse midwifery.
"The sector deserves more attention from the government because family planning does not mean birth control only," said Prof Nur un Nabi, department of Population Sciences at the University of Dhaka.
"It is rather a package programme that includes maternal and child health, reproductive health, nutrition and breastfeeding. The people's representatives should have to understand this."
He said it is the second largest directorate in terms of the activities. But the family planning programme is not a priority issue of the decision makers as still the false notions regarding family planning prevail.
Nur un Nabi, however, stressed the need for a separate ministry for family planning to boost the sector.
"The government should consider population as a priority issue. It is a big issue and amidst the cadre and non-cadre and doctor and non-doctor conflicts the sector will not work properly," he said.
Furthermore, the government should think of population management and activate the National Population Council to monitor the population management in grassroots level, Nur un Nabi added.