UNITED NATIONS, Apr 21 (APP): Pakistan told a UN panel Wednesday that with an estimated 220 million inhabitants, demographic planning has remained a priority for the country’s successive governments, with focus on raising awareness, providing healthcare, building capacity and implementing population control strategies.

“For a developing nation like Pakistan, which is world’s fifth most populous country, this population explosion has serious implications for the government’s efforts to improve the standard of living and ensuring food security, nutrition and sustainable development for all,” Aamir Khan, deputy permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN, told the Commission for population and development (CPD).

CPD is one of the ten functional commissions of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Speaking in a debate on ‘Population, food security, nutrition and sustainable development’, the Pakistani representative highlighted that the on-going coronavirus pandemic was causing a spike in poverty and consequently food insecurity and undernutrition, which in pregnancy increases the risk of low-birth-weight babies, obstructed labour, premature births, and maternal and newborn deaths.

Despite these challenges, he said, Pakistan has made significant progress on many accounts in the last 27 years, with antenatal care increasing from 14% to 51% and skilled birth attendance increasing from 17 to 69% in the same period.

At the same time, Aamir Khan acknowledged that there was a need for an accelerated action on many accounts.

“Even in the time of economic difficulty our government has prioritized these issues and we have initiated mega multi-billion rupees projects financed mainly through domestic resources,” he said, citing the “Kamyab Jawan Programme” and the “Ehsaas programme”.

In addition, he said the Pakistani government had initiated social health insurance for the poor families and until now millions of families have been provided coverage.

“The Government has also set time-bound targets and is fully committed to achieving them,” the Pakistani representative added.

The world’s population must be well nourished and healthy in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he said. Current socio-economic and geographic inequalities about food insecurity or malnutrition must be addressed as part of joint commitment to ensure that no one is left behind.

He told delegates that under Prime Minister Imran Khan’s guidance, the Government has introduced “Agriculture Emergency Programme” aimed at increasing agricultural productivity, value addition, reduce dependence on imports and improve lives of farming community.

“This will also ensure food security in the country and increase the hard-earned income of farmers.”