On World Population Day, a panel of experts expressed concern and spoke on âAddressing the Needs of Women and Girls for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Family Planning Services During COVID-19 and Beyondâ. The panel’s experts discussed a range of population-related issues, including family planning, gender equality, maternal health and the transformation of social norms, organized by the Population Foundation of India.
highlighted the progress India has made in meeting the targets set in national policies and global commitments on population and family planning. India’s population is stabilizing with the total fertility rate (TFR) falling to 2.2, which is almost within reach of the TFR target of 2.1 as envisaged in the Indian government’s 2000 population policy. The National Family Health Survey, NFHS-5 (Phase-I, 2019-20) reported an increase in the use of modern contraceptives in all 17 states studied, while the unmet need for family planning decreased in most states.
Regarding the use of digital technology, Dr. SK Sikdar, Maternal Health and Family Planning Advisor, MoHFW that the Government of India is prioritizing family planning during the COVID-19 emergency and through the use of digital technology.
He also reiterated the need for attention to increase male engagement “to achieve gender and health goals we need to focus on men and boys and promote open and inclusive dialogue on sexual and reproductive health”.
In the opening speech, Dr. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Biocon Ltd: “COVID-19 has exposed health and gender inequalities and inequalities in India.” She mentioned the need for digital technologies to provide young people with information about sexual and reproductive health and skills of health workers to provide evidence-based health care.
“Investing in primary health care can play an essential role in improving women’s, maternal and infant health for survival and a sustainable future,” she added.
Turning to family planning, Martyn Smith, Interim Executive Director and Managing Director, FP2030 said, âCOVID-19 gives us the opportunity to be more focused on equity issues. When we understand the fragility of our health system, we can better develop our ability to react realistically. “
Emphasizing the need to continue to innovate and use technology to improve health services and challenge social norms, Archna Vyas, associate director, program advocate, communication and behavioral insights for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) stated that Technology can be a critical tool in improving access to health services for vulnerable populations.
Argentina Matavel, Resident Representative India and Country Director, Bhutan, UNFPA, praised the innovations introduced by several state governments over the past year, saying, âThis is the time to innovate and use digital technology to serve the underserved. This is the time to accelerate, to bring services closer to home. “
Mentioning the importance of upholding women’s rights and choices, Matavel added, âWomen will respond sensibly to whatever awaits them if you give priority to rights and choices, including the availability of a wide range of contraceptive methods and information , women will respond to reason. “
Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of the Population Foundation of India, moderated the panel: âTo take full advantage of our benefits, we must protect the health, rights and well-being of women and young people. Population coercive measures that limit the number of children couples can have misconceive that India has almost reached the total fertility rate of replacement levels. This means that now is the time to protect, equip and empower our people to ensure that no individual is left behind as we evolve into a nation with a dynamic, young and productive population. “