Workshop 3: COVID-19 and responsive SRH services

The COVID-19 pandemic has made sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services much harder to access, especially for the most vulnerable. Service providers have had to reimagine how to deliver comprehensive SRH services and care in unprecedented circumstances. This workshop explored how and why the ecosystem of SRH service provision has to an extent broken down, but also how this has led to some unexpected breakthroughs.

  • The morning workshop was hosted by Manuelle Hurwitz, Director of the Programmes Division at IPPF.
  • Lale Say, Unit Head of the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at the WHO, hosted the afternoon workshop.

Main Challenges:

  • Immediate stop of some SRH services: lockdowns and restrictive measures meant access to services such as family planning or birth clinics suddenly vanished. This had a devastating effect on many peoples’ lives.
  • Certain SRH services considered non-essential: during lockdowns and times of restricted movement, some SRH services have been closed down and/or remain inaccessible.
  • Priority shift in hospitals: with hospitals converted into COVID-19 centres, SRH service delivery has become increasingly limited.
  • Privacy concerns: in some cases, it is more difficult for people to access services discreetly because services are now offered over the phone or online and families often share electronic devices.

Opportunities and solutions:

  • Building resilient health systems: strong and resilient health systems are a cornerstone of the necessary response to the impact of COVID-19 on people´s SRHR.
  • Categorizing SRH services as essential: it would be important to classify more SRHR services as an “essential health service” to ensure they remain accessible during a crisis.
  • Remote care and self-care: with SRH services still inaccessible in many areas, it is important to promote remote care such as telemedicine and self-care.
  • Digital communication tools: social media and helplines are a vital and effective way of spreading information, advice and support.