ISLAMABAD : President Dr Arif Alvi Saturday advised the religious scholars and media to play their role to promote breastfeeding as the most natural practice to prevent unwanted pregnancies and thus protecting mothers from malnutrition and the country from economic stress. “Rampant increase in population will always stress the growth of our economy and available resources. This mismatch will keep our nation fighting poverty, poor maternal health, malnutrition & stunting, in a vicious never ending cycle,” the president said in his message to the nation on World Population Day annually observed on Saturday (July 11). Marked first in 1990 by a UN resolution, the Day seeks to focus attention on creating awareness and highlight the urgency and importance of population issues and their relations to the environment and development According to the UN, it took hundreds of thousands of years for the world population to grow to 1 billion – then in just another 200 years or so, it grew sevenfold. In 2011, the global population reached the 7 billion mark, and today, it stands at about 7.7 billion, and it’s expected to grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050, and 10.9 billion in 2100. While highlighting what-to-do measures, the president called for promoting breastfeeding as the most natural practice for 24-36 months as per Quran. “This prevents pregnancy during this period, allowing the mother to avoid malnutrition, & prevents stunting in her child. Ulema have a significant role to play,” said president, who also chairs Population Task Force. He said in Pakistan, there were four million unwanted pregnancies because of lack of contraceptive availability. “Our outreach is dismal. Population Task Force chaired by President considers this as the low-hanging fruit that can provide quick results. We are encouraging manufacture in Pakistan,” he remarked. The president also called for media’s significant role just like it did an outstanding job in promoting standard operating procedures (SOPs) in COVID-19. He said a comprehensive campaign was also being panned just like the one carried out in all Islamic countries. “It is a National Emergency,” the president said quoting Prime Minister Imran Khan when he had asked him to chair the population task force.