46% Pakistanis with coronavirus have travel history to Iran — WHO 

General view of Pakistan-Iran border posts, Taftan, Pakistan, Feb. 25, 2020. ( Reuters photo)
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Updated 05 April 2020

46% Pakistanis with coronavirus have travel history to Iran — WHO 

  • 27% Pakistanis with covid-19 have travel history to other nations, 27% confirmed cases are local transmission, WHO says in report
  • Around 6,000 pilgrims had entered Pakistan without being properly screened for coronavirus on the Iranian side — Director General Health

ISLAMABAD: About 46 percent of Pakistanis who have tested positive for the coronavirus have a travel history to Iran, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a report published on April 1.
Pakistan closed its border with Iran last month following the outbreak in the neighboring country, which has reported more than 47,500 cases of coronavirus and more than 3,000 deaths, making it the worst hit country in the Middle East. Pakistan, where testing for the virus is not widespread, has 2,696 confirmed cases and 40 deaths. 
“Out of the total 2,039 confirmed cases in Pakistan till April 1, 46% have a travel history to Iran, 27% had travel history to other countries and local transmission has been reported in 27% of the confirmed cases,” the WHO report said.
All data used in the report comes from the government of Pakistan, Dr. Palitha Mahipala, WHO’s Pakistan representative, told Arab News on Saturday. 
Pakistan and Iran, one of the countries worst hit by the outbreak, share a 900 km border, which is frequently used for trade and by Pakistani Shiites, who travel to Iran for religious pilgrimages, often crossing at a border crossing at Taftan.
Pakistan’s Director General Health, Malik Muhammad Safi, told Arab News, that around 6,000 pilgrims had entered Pakistan without being properly screened for coronavirus on the Iranian side. 
“Iran announced their coronavirus outbreak very late due to which more than 6,000 zaireen [pilgrims] entered Pakistan unchecked, which became a source of local transmission in Pakistan,” Safi said. 
He said Iran’s late announcement of the outbreak within its borders resulted in the spread of the respiratory illness to many regional countries.
Indeed, Iran has emerged as the second focal point after China for the spread of coronavirus. Cases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and even Canada have all been traced to Iran.
The Iranian government denies concealing facts about the outbreak. President Hassan Rouhani said during a televised speech on March 18 that his government had been “honest and straightforward with the nation.”
WHO officials said in early and mid-March that Iran’s response to coronavirus was coordinated and evolving in the right direction, but that more needed to be done.
Talking about Pakistan’s anti-coronavirus efforts, Saifi said the government would use 14,000 nationwide polio eradication centers as part of its coronavirus response.
“We are going to use all these 14,000 centers, and also 200 polio surveillance officers have also been deputed for the surveillance of potential coronavirus patients,” the director general health said. “We have started COVID-19 testing at 20 places around Pakistan and working on taking this number to 50 labs to increase testing across the country.”


Use of contraceptives to bring down Pakistan's population growth rate to 1.1% – official

Updated 08 July 2020

Use of contraceptives to bring down Pakistan's population growth rate to 1.1% – official

  • More than five million babies are born in the country every year
  • Pakistan also plans to reduce maternal mortality rate from 170 to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030

KARACHI: Pakistan plans to encourage the use of contraceptives to bring down its current population growth rate from 2.4 percent to 1.1 percent by 2030, a senior official told Arab News on Tuesday.
The country has developed a National Action Plan (NAP) to implement the recommendations of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) approved in 2018 to address the challenge of population growth.
“The plan consists of various components, such as population fund, legislation, curriculum and trainings, and talking to ulema [or religious scholars],” Dr. Shahid Hanif, Director General of the Population Program Wing (PPW), said.
It also seeks to increase the present contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) of 34 percent to 50 percent by 2025 and 60 percent by 2030 to lower the existing average population growth rate of 2.4 percent to 1.5 percent by 2025 and to 1.1 percent by 2030. Officials say they hope to achieve these targets by reducing the present fertility rate of 3.6 births per woman to 2.8 births by 2025 and 2.2 births per woman by 2030.
At the current rate, the annual population grows by an average of more than five million newborn babies per year. After the growth rate is brought down to 1.1 percent, however, the average addition would be down to 2.3 million on an annual basis, keeping in view the country’s current population of 211.17 million.
The country’s federal and provincial administrations are taking steps to ensure universal access to family planning and reproductive health care services. The federal government wants to create a five-year non-lapsable special fund to reduce the population growth rate with an annual allocation of Rs 10 billion. The fund will be set up exclusively from federal resources without any cut from the provincial funds, according to the latest Economic Survey of Pakistan.
“Provinces have been given funding for more lady health workers and commodities [contraceptives] since the federal government will provide a matching grant to them,” Hanif said
One of the functions of the Population Program Wing is to ensure contraceptive commodity security, supply chain management and warehousing of contraceptives for provincial and regional population welfare departments.
A Contraceptives Commodity Security Working Group (CCSWG) has also been established to ensure the availability of birth control commodities, their timely procurement, pooled distribution, stock assessment and data availability etc
“With a manageable population, we will be able to utilize our resources more effectively for the welfare of people and our national economy. This is important since about two-third of Pakistan’s population is below the age of 20. These people need education, health and other facilities. If these individuals don’t get basic necessities, the country may witness huge social disruption in the future,” Hanif added.
However, he categorically ruled out that the country was considering “one child” policy, saying “it was never discussed nor thought about.”
The reduction of maternal mortality rate from 170 to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030 is also among the objectives of the plan.