Deborah sat on her bed thinking of how she was suddenly faced with the burden of an unwanted pregnancy. As a young person with no source of income, she had no means to take care of the child even after it is born. Many youth-friendly health care centres in her community were not available and were difficult to reach due to social distancing measures against the COVID-19 pandemic, this has led to little or no access to contraceptives and SRHR counselling especially for young people.
Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and COVID19
According to the U.N, the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to seven million unintended pregnancies; which in turn could lead to unsafe abortions and economic hardship. Many youths like Deborah are unaware of their sexual and reproductive rights like access to accurate information on their sexual and reproductive health and services and family planning methods, especially at such a period when the world is combating a lethal pandemic and sources of income are being cut off.
Contraceptive and Family Planning services are educational, comprehensive medical or social activities which enable individuals, including youths and adolescents, to determine freely whether or not to conceive a child, the number and spacing of their children and to select how this may be achieved. According to WHO, women who have more than 4 children are at increased risk of maternal mortality; Family planning, directly and indirectly, affects the health of the mother and her children and has social and economic effects. When children are properly spaced, the parents can concentrate on the upbringing of each child and provide the best services available within their resources.
Our Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) programs including our Back on Track empowerment program, have provided young people with counselling and key information on sexual and reproductive health to enable them to make better life choices and live more productive lives. To provide support to youth and adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic, our safe space ambassadors have reached out to young people in underserved communities, counselling them on their sexual and reproductive health and rights, and providing referrals via phone calls and text messages. Due to the fact that many of the beneficiaries live in underserved communities, the impact has been low, as it is difficult to reach out to them.
Young people and Contraceptive use
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 16 million adolescents aged 15-19 give birth each year, mostly in low and middle-income countries. Many young people today do not have access to contraceptives due to lack of or not enough youth-friendly health centres. Even with access to contraceptives, many young people avoid or discontinue contraceptive use due to misinformation about contraceptive methods and their side effects. Adolescent contraceptive use can be promoted with youth-friendly centres and Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE). It is important to pass accurate information on contraceptive use to young people, to enable them to make informed decisions on suitable methods of contraception.
However, Young people may not know where to get contraceptives or cannot afford Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services.