By: Mariko Rasmussen, Communications Specialist at Women Deliver
Studies have shown that when women give birth less than 15 months after a previous birth, their risk of dying from pregnancy related causes is 150% higher than for women who wait longer to give birth again. When pregnancies are too close together, newborns can be born too soon, too small, or with a low birth weight, may not grow well and are more likely to die before the age of five. Birth spacing – allowing three to five years to pass between births – is a very important maternal and child health intervention.
In Pakistan, an estimated ¼ of women want to delay or avoid child bearing but are not using a contraceptive. This has been a particularly difficult year to access care and services with the catastrophic flooding severely impacting an already vulnerable population. One project that is working to make a difference in this situation is called Family Advancement for Life and Health (FALAH) – a five year project in reproductive health and family planning funded by USAID with Population Council Pakistan as lead partner. FALAH is striving to bring an increase in awareness of healthy birth spacing and pregnancy-related risks among pregnancies occurring too early or too late in women’s lives. FALAH aims to increase the use of family planning and birth spacing by removing barriers to services and improving knowledge.
Since 2007, FALAH has provided family planning services to half a million people in Pakistan and improved the quality of existing services, and expanded access to contraceptives. As of December 2009, 406 social mobilizers, 1,652 LHWs/Lady Health Supervisors, and 2,580 doctors/paramedics have been trained in client-centered family planning/birth-spacing services to insure providers are sensitive to client needs. The social marketing aspect of the project has included posters, TV commercials, and radio spots to bring awareness to the general population. The project has been implemented in 20 districts of all four provinces of Pakistan and the Government of Pakistan has announced an initiative to scale the program up to cover the entire country and to improve public awareness. Enabling couples to determine when and how many children they will have is necessary to the health of women and children.