Wednesday, 7 April 2021. Today, IPPF Africa Region joins the rest of the world in celebrating the World Health Day, under the theme: ‘Building a fairer, healthier world’.
IPPF Africa Region is cognizant of the various inequalities that exist in society that affect our general well-being, especially those pertaining to sexual and reproductive health (SRH). These inequalities include people’s ability to access health facilities, the cost of these services and the quality of healthcare they receive, among others.
These inequalities become more pronounced during crisis times, such as those we are experiencing since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Populations that have been and continue to be hardest hit by the pandemic are those from low income, vulnerable and disadvantaged backgrounds. On a regular basis, these populations face great challenges earning a decent income, which in turn affects their access to affordable, quality healthcare. Their struggles become exacerbated during crisis times. Women and girls, who already face a myriad of pre-existing gender inequalities have been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
These are the populations that IPPF Africa Region, through its 37 Member Associations strives to reach with affordable and quality sexual reproductive health services. This, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 5 which pertain to health and well-being, and gender equality, respectively. We are also driven by the tenets of Universal Health Care (UHC) that seek to ensure that individuals receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship.
Our work is centered around investing in functional health systems and practices in the countries where we work. To achieve our goals, we work with various partners, key among them Ministries of Health, Education, Youth, Gender and Culture, Parliamentarians, the African Union (AU), religious and traditional leaders, Civil Society Organizations and other entities in the formulation of respective policies and guidelines that address inequalities in sexual and reproductive health.
Through their static clinics and mobile outreach services, our Member Associations (MAs) offer affordable and quality SRH services, ensuring they reach the most vulnerable populations. Despite the disruptions caused by COVID-19, our MAs have made every effort to ensure the continued provision of essential SRH services to the populations they serve.
In doing so, our MAs have had to be innovative, adapting to new strategies that accommodated the restrictions imposed by governments in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Some of the new strategies they adapted included conducting online trainings and offering Digital Health Interventions. In Benin for example, our MA completed 4,930 online Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) sessions with young people. In Zambia, the MA undertook a self-managed care model of contraceptive provision, where they trained women on both oral and injectable contraceptives. As a result of this, 1,535 women began using the DMPA-SC (Sayana Press) injectable, and were given two doses of the contraceptives, which they would self-inject at home. A further 1,138 women chose the oral contraceptives and were given six-month supplies of the same.
Our MAs also worked with government bodies to lobby for changes in policy, guidelines and protocol development to create an enabling environment for the delivery of SRH services during the pandemic. Six MAs (Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger and Chad) reported the inclusion of SRH in the list of essential services provided during the pandemic.
On this World Health Day, we reiterate our commitment to ensuring that all people in sub-Saharan Africa are reached with affordable, quality SRH information and services. We endeavor to reduce and eliminate all inequalities in sexual reproductive health.