Sexual and reproductive health

Sexual and reproductive health is a fundamental human right; central to reducing poverty and improving long-term health. It is intrinsic to our right to life, freedom, health, choice, privacy, education and the prohibition of discrimination.

Sexual and reproductive health is a fundamental human right; central to reducing poverty and improving long-term health. It is intrinsic to our right to life, freedom, health, choice, privacy, education and the prohibition of discrimination.

Many women and young people in Pakistan face barriers that prevent them from exercising this right.  Major gaps remain at both service delivery and policy level, preventing adequate access to basic health facilities. Denying these rights have grave consequences that exacerbate poverty and inequality. It can lead to greater vulnerabilities to gender-related ill health, unintended pregnancies, maternal death, harmful cultural practices and sexual and gender-based violence

Pakistan particularly struggles with high maternal mortality ratios, adolescent birth rates and unmet need for contraception. The country has the third highest burden of maternal, fetal and child mortality globally. According to the Pakistan Demographic Health Survey (PDHS) 2012-2013, fertility is considerably higher in rural communities than in urban areas. On average, most rural women have 4.2 children. Contraceptive prevalence rate remains low at 26 per cent, meaning that a majority of people are not using birth control methods. This is despite the fact that 96 per cent of married Pakistani women are aware of at least one modern contraceptive method. 

Advocating for universal access to sexual and reproductive health

UNFPA strives to ensure quality sexual and reproductive health information and services, including contraceptive services, violence against women and girls and sexual reproductive health needs of adolescents. Universal access to sexual reproductive health and women’s choice over their own reproductive choices is essential not only to achieve sustainable development but also to ensure empowerment for women. 

Building capacity of health-care workers

UNFPA has helped build the capacity of three different types of health professionals at local levels – nurses, midwives and lady health visitors – to deliver quality sexual reproductive health information and services. In order to ensure sustainability, UNFPA has helped provincial governments establish and integrate sexual reproductive health into existing health-care training curricula, improve training plans, secure sustainable financing, build the capacity of health providers and enhance accountability. 

Making health services youth-friendly

Adolescent and young people frequently face barriers in accessing sexual and reproductive health information and services, which has cascading impacts on their lives and opportunities. UNFPA advocates for interventions that tailor sexual and reproductive health to the challenges people face at different stages of life, including adolescence. Meeting their unique needs has a profound effect on their health, well-being and opportunities later in life. This means providing access to life skills-based education and services to prevent, diagnose and treat STIs and unintended pregnancies. 

UNFPA works with government ministries, civil society and young people to better health services that are youth-friendly, including setting up adolescent counselling centres; developing service protocols; sensitizing communities and building the capacity of health facilities, civil society organizations and young peer educators. Under its 8th Country Programme, UNFPA has piloted four adolescent counseling centers in collaboration with the Department of Population Welfare and Pathfinder. More than 9,000 adolescents and young people accessed services in the past two years.