As the Pandemic deepens, millions of women and girls do not have the right information to space their children, plan their homes, protect themselves from infections as well as enjoy good health.
Having the right information on the types of contraceptives for child spacing available for use is capable of averting unintended, unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortion.
According to a study by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), lack of access to contraceptives and child spacing services could lead to seven million unintended pregnancies in the coming months during this pandemic .
The study further said that, more than 47 million women could lose access to contraception in 114 low- and middle-income countries owing to disruptions to health services occasioned by the multiple impacts of the pandemic.
It is imperative that, there should be continuous use of child spacing methods amid the COVID-19 pandemic, total lockdown of social and business activities as information on provision of child spacing information is important during this period.
According to Yusuf Nuhu – Programme Officer, Reproductive Health/Family Planning said, “Contraception and child spacing information and services are always life-saving and important. Sexual activity is going with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is therefore crucial to ensure that people are able to access rights-based services and information to initiate and continue use of child spacing commodities.
“By preventing unintended pregnancies, contraception helps to protect girls and women from the negative health consequences of unintended pregnancies, which can save their lives. Contraception reduces the need for abortion, meaning that women and girls are less at risk of unsafe abortion, which again can be lifesaving. Child spacing can help alleviate additional pressure on already-stretched health systems which are working hard to address COVID-19.”
Nuhu advised couples who want to avoid pregnancy during the pandemic should use the contraceptive method of choice. Access to information on child spacing services from a healthcare provider can be done by phone or online.
He however said, if unsuccessful with access to these services, such a couple may opt for a back-up method that is available without a prescription (such as condoms, spermicides, pills, or emergency contraceptive pills) from a nearby pharmacy or drug shop.
Similarly, Kosi Izundu, Programme Officer, Reproductive Health/Family Planning, Pathfinder International said stressed on the importance of the role of Family Planning Managers in ensuring accessibility of contraception and child spacing information and services to those who needs them.
As part of their tasks, she said that managers should increase the use of telehealth for counselling and sharing of messages related to safe and effective use of contraception and for selection and initiation of contraceptives.
Indeed, family planning managers should also ensure adequate inventory to avoid potential stock outs at all levels of the health system. Also, prepare advisories for users on how they can access contraceptive information, services and supplies; monitor contraceptive consumption in your area to identify any potential pitfall and shortage.
Similarly, they should increase availability and access to the contraceptives which can be used by the client without service provider support such as pills.
Another key stakeholder in making sure people access contraception and child spacing information and services, are policy makers whose vital role is to plan and develop innovative strategies to ensure that as many eligible people as possible can access information and contraception during this pandemic period.
Policy makers should enable healthcare workers to provide contraceptive information and services as per national guidelines to the full extent possible. This is particularly important where pregnancy poses a high risk to health.
Furthermore, they owe it a duty to clients to expand availability of contraceptive services (including both information and methods) through places other than healthcare facilities, such as pharmacies, drug shops, online platforms and other outlets. This can be with or without prescription depending on national guidelines and contraceptive methods.
These stakeholders should ensure access to emergency
post-coital contraception, including consideration of over the counter provision. Enable access to contraception for women and girls in the immediate post-partum and post abortion periods when they may access health services.
There should be increase use of mobile phones and digital technologies to help people make decisions about which contraceptive methods to use, and how they can be accessed.
Though the pandemic has hindered visits to health facilities, there is a need to maintain regular functioning of the health system: to keep updated the right information and resources on Reproductive Health, to protect health workers, and restrict the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible.
Despite tremendous impact of COVID-19 on health systems around the world, including, sexual and reproductive health more specifically, the need to meet demands for child spacing information by women of reproductive age should not be compromised.
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