Unwanted pregnancy, maternal death need to be reduced

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The latest population report -- State of World Population 2022 -- released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has reflected a positive scenario of population in Bangladesh.

The rise of average life expectancy of women to 75 years, and couples giving birth to two children on average, has been considered as success cases.

According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the average life expectancy in Bangladesh is 72.8 years, where the male average life expectancy is 71.2 years and that of females 74.5 years.

Currently, 6% of the total population in Bangladesh is aged above 65 years.

After independence, the consecutive governments had identified population as a major problem and laid emphasis on population control. Bangladesh also received international awards for its success in population control.

As a result of continuous efforts, it has been possible to bring the total fertility rate (TFR) down to 2.3%, which was 6.3% in the seventies.

The UNFPA report claimed Bangladesh’s current TFR to be 1.9%, though the experts came up with different opinions.

Professor Md Mainul Islam of the Population Science Department at Dhaka University said UNFPA uses inferential data that does not represent the actual facts. Many services were disrupted due to the pandemic. Child marriage increased, so did teenage pregnancy. Time is yet to come to say that Bangladesh has reached the replaceable reproductive rate.”

In line with the professor’s view, we also think that there is no reason to be thrilled with the positive report of UNFPA. It is the state’s responsibility to meet the basic needs of citizens, no matter what the population growth rate may be.

Unfortunately the state is yet to ensure food, clothing, home, education and healthcare to the marginalised people even after 50 years of independence.

Many women still have unwanted pregnancies due to non-availability of contraceptives.

According to the UNFPA statistics, 63% of couples now use contraceptives when Bangladesh set the target at 72%.

Unplanned pregnancy would decrease if the authorities ensure adequate supply of contraceptives.

Apart from that, the child marriage rate is yet to come down to a significant extent. Bangladesh registered a sudden rise in child marriage during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to data, 51% of teen girls are currently getting married before reaching 18. We think that the government should gear up its monitoring on the issue.

The most worrisome information revealed in the UNFPA report is that some 173 mothers die per every 100,000 child birth in Bangladesh. To reduce the maternal death rate, it is crucial to ensure that the mothers get services from skilled and trained health workers during delivery.

A good number of children are still born outside of the healthcare centers or hospitals.

The government claims to have taken the healthcare services to the union level, but the maternal death rate will not decrease unless 100% maternity service is ensured.

Against such a backdrop, the population issue should be seen from the overall socio-economic corner.

It is not only unrealistic but also ridiculous to claim population as resources without meeting the basic needs of citizens.

The government should take sustainable and effective measures so that no new child marriage or unwanted pregnancy takes place in the country.