Ensuring the Continuity of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Family Planning Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Experiences and Lessons from the Women’s Integrated Sexual Health Program

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One of the main aims of the UK aid funded Women’s Integrated Sexual Health (WISH2ACTION W2A) program is to strengthen government stewardship of sexual and reproductive health/family planning (SRH/FP) services across seven countries in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Options consultancy provides technical assistance within four work streams: 1) creation of a favorable policy and planning environment; 2) improved public sector investment; 3) national stewardship over quality improvement; and 4) establishment of accountability systems to influence and track commitments and policies. This role became even more important since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak shifted government’s priorities to the COVID response and led to the disruption in the delivery of essential health services, threatening to undo and reverse the SRH/FP gains made to date. In this chapter, the author shares Options’ approach and experiences in engaging governments during the pandemic to ensure that access to SRH/FP remains a priority, alongside efforts to keep the routine enabling environment work on track. The author draws out wider lessons on the range of actions that can be taken at policy and systems level to protect SRH/FP during a health emergency in different country contexts, including the severity of the outbreak, socio-political environment, and health systems preparedness. The author also highlights how the pandemic can provide new policy opportunities, such as to accelerate self-care, and strengthen health systems resilience.

Read the full book chapter here.

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