COVID-19 Lockdown restrictions affect access to SRH services for young people in Zim

ZIMBABWE’S COVID-19 lockdown restrictions did not adversely affect access to contraceptives yet on the flipside ,there was a massive reduction in the number of young people seeking of Sexual Reproductive Health and HIV services, a Ministry of Health and Child Care official said.

This was said during a webinar updating stakeholders on progress on the 2gether 4 SRHR, a joint programme to boost efforts to achieve universal access to sexual and reproductive health and to end AIDS. The program was done in 13 Zimbabwean districts.

Speaking during the webinar, Ministry of Health Maternal Health Officer Mrs Chipo Chimamise-Dembedza said there was a steady uptake of contraceptives among young people. Between Q1 2020 and Q2 2021, the number of young people who had access to contraception.

“The orange line here shows the number of young people accessing contraceptives. We can note that even though the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were in force, this aspect of programming was affected very little. We think this is due to the availability of community based distributors in the communities so that even though there were restrictions on movements, on gatherings, young people could still access contraceptives from these community based distributors,” she said.

On the issue of a drop in young people seeking SRH and HIV services from 1, 6 million in Q1 2020 to around 400 000 in Q2 2021 , she said this was due to restricted movements.

“So we can see that there was a dramatic reduction from Q4 2020. We attribute this fall mostly to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on movements, restrictions on gathering and the like,” Mrs Chimamise-Dembedza said.

Most speakers agreed that there was need to scale up the 2gether 4 SRHR beyond the pilot 13 districts.

“We have Proof of concept of successful Pilot interventions conducted. Therefore this is the time to invest in a national program to scale up the interventions nationwide beyond the 13 districts,”
UNAIDS Zimbabwe Country Director Dr Sophia Mukasa Monico said. “We now have proof that together we can reduce unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), new HIV infections, maternal mortality and sexual and gender-based violence.
We also know that the best service delivery approach is one stop center with youth user friendly interventions. As mentioned earlier, this is the time and the best opportunity to scale up the project to a national program.”

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