On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. The impact of the pandemic would be felt across the world in all sectors, including health, where major disruptions were witnessed. Access to basic health information and services, including sexual reproductive health (SRH) information and services became constrained owing to various government-led protective directives such as restrictions on movement, lockdowns and curfews.
The pandemic also put a strain on IPPF Member Associations (MAs) across the world. MAs are IPPF affiliated locally owned health organizations which provide a wide range of sexual reproductive health information and services. The pandemic saw many MAs cut down on their services, with some having to shut down completely or suspend some of their operations in their static clinics, community-based outlets and mobile outreach services. Surveys conducted by the IPPF Africa Region in April and June 2020 to establish the impact of Covid 19 on its MAs established that a total of 1,405 service delivery points (SDPs) were reported to have been closed during round 1 of the survey while 2,161 SDPs were closed during round 2 out of the 13,049 service delivery points reported in 2019. 447 mobile clinics were also shut down. These disruptions affected people’s access to the essential sexual reproductive healthcare services provided in our MA facilities, such as family planning services, sexually transmitted infections services, maternal and child health services, among others. Young people were no longer able to congregate at the youth-friendly centers where they would access SRH information and services.
This called for innovation on the part of IPPF in ensuring that the populations, especially the vulnerable and marginalized, continued accessing SRH services. Various partners came on board to mitigate the gap occasioned by COVID-19 by providing various resources for this, including financial resources. These donors included Global Affairs Canada (GAC), Levi Strauss Foundation and Danida. The Danida grant for COVID-19 was disbursed to 45 IPPF MAs in the Africa region and was geared towards filling the gap created by the pandemic by ensuring there was continued SRH service delivery despite the challenges.
The interventions facilitated by these grants have yielded commendable results, as more than 100 million SRH services were reported in the Africa Region - mostly women, girls, the vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations have been able to access SRH information and services. The range of services, offered by the MAs in partnership with government agencies and development partners in the private sector, included ante-natal and post-natal care, childbirth services, family planning services, STI treatment and management services, Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) for the young people, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) services.
In a series of five case studies, we highlight some innovations and adaptations developed by IPPF Africa Region MAs, that enabled thousands of their target populations to continue accessing quality and affordable sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) information and services amidst the pandemic.
Sao Tome: A Clinic on Wheels