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Safeguarding the Health of Women and Girls During Covid-19

By EMN Updated: Jul 10, 2020 6:00 pm

Ever since its introduction in 1989, World Population Day is celebrated across the world annually on 11th July by organising a variety of activities and events to raise awareness on various population issues such as importance of family planning, gender equality, poverty, maternal and child health and human rights. The day focuses on the importance of reproductive health and how it affects overall growth and development plans and programs. However, till today many people have a narrow concept that the day is observed just to raise awareness on the growth of population and to limit or stop child birth by performing permanent sterilisation which is entirely a wrong notion. On this day leaders, policymakers, grassroots organisers, institutions and others raise awareness to make reproductive health and rights a reality for all.

Today, as we celebrate this great event with the rest of the world, it is important to enhance the knowledge and skills towards reproductive health and family planning which are the main goal of world population day. As per World Health Organisation (WHO) definition, ‘reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes’. ‘Family planning allows individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of their births. It can be achieved through the use of contraceptives methods and the treatment of involuntary infertility’. Family planning is central to gender equality and women’s empowerment and it is a key factor in reducing poverty. When a couple can choose the numbers, timing and spacing of their children based on their financial and health status, they are able to live a quality and healthy life potentially ending poverty. According to Dr Natalia Kanem Executive Director UNFPA, “family planning is not only a matter of human rights; it is also central to women’s empowerment, reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development”.

In 2018 the theme of world population day was, ‘family planning is a human right’. For the first time ever, family planning was affirmed to be a human right. A basic human right is to be able to get safe and effective family planning methods and it should also be a voluntary choice. To ensure quality of service, all baskets of contraceptive choices must be chosen without any forms of incentives or coercion. Every individual has the right to make their own choices about their sexual and reproductive health and there should not be any violence while taking decisions.

Providing quality family planning services includes contraceptive services, pregnancy testing and counseling achieving pregnancy, basic infertility services, pre-conception health, sexually transmitted disease and services related preventive health services such as screening for breast and cervical cancer and other health services.

With the successful implementation of maternal and child health programs/initiative, today the rate of maternal and infant mortality rate has been reduced. However, due to lack of inadequate sexuality education, issues such as adolescent pregnancy, early marriage, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, unused of contraceptive methods, abortion etc still prevails in the society. Upholding the objectives of world population day, young people should be empowered with comprehensive sexuality education so that they can choose, decides and be responsible of their life.

Reducing adolescent pregnancy and child marriage are very crucial not just for health issue but for social and mental development of a society.

Therefore, using adolescent friendly measures, sexual reproductive health and rights of young people should be a top priority and adolescent friendly services including comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and contraceptive services should be provided and accessible to enable them make informed decisions about their own lives.

This year the theme is based on safeguarding the health of women and girls around the world especially during the time of Covid-19 pandemic. The goal is to raise awareness of women’s and girls’ needs for sexual and reproductive health and vulnerabilities during the pandemic, to highlight how we can safeguard hard-fought gains and ensure that SRHR stays on the local agenda, and to explore how to maintain the momentum towards achievement the SDGs by 2030. Collective responsibilities will enable the world to respond to the right and need services of girls and women in accessing their sexual and reproductivehealth care.

Citing a report from Reproductive Health and Family Planning Clinic, FPA India Nagaland- Kohima during nationwide lockdown from 24th March to 31st May 2020, the organisation has provided 1365 services to total 300 clients. Services include some essential services such as contraceptive methods, universal immunisation, ante natal care and post natal care as per the guidelines of MHFW. Of all the services child immunisation and injectable contraceptive method record the highest in total number of clients. Injectable (DMPA- taken once in 3months) method is safe, effective and convenient for the married women, especially at this time of crisis this method should be made accessible so that women stay safe, healthy and need not worry of unintended pregnancy and other menstrual related health problems. An unintended pregnancy increases the risk of maternal depression, stress and psychological well being. Understanding women’s health and share equal responsibility is important to build a healthy relationship and family. It may be kindly noted that, family planning does not mean limiting or stop the number of children. However, the goal is to save lives, prevent pregnancy related health risks in women, prevent abortion, reduce infant mortality, prevent STIs including HIV and reduce adolescent pregnancy. Therefore, it should be supported and promoted to build a better future for oneself, family and community.

Let us all deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every child-birth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

Ville Rhetso
Family Planning Association of India
Nagaland Branch
Issued in Public Interest

By EMN Updated: Jul 10, 2020 6:00:00 pm