Representatives of seven youth groups from across the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are joining forces to advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights, including safe abortion care in accordance with the Maputo Protocol. The Youth Sprint Movement is part of the Makoki ya Mwasi project launched by Ipas DRC, which involves collaboration with local partners to ensure that women know where they can access safe abortion and contraceptive care.
It is especially important for young people to have access to sexual and reproductive health information as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, says Dr. Jean-Claude Mulunda, director of Ipas DRC. “There has been an increase in the number of unwanted pregnancies, sexual violence and maternal deaths due to clandestine abortions, while access to services has been more difficult. Reaching out to young people is more important than ever .”
One of the first actions by the youth groups was to provide support for women and girls affected by the deadly volcanic eruption near Goma, which destroyed thousands of homes and forced nearly half a million people to flee the area.
“During crises such as this, women have difficulty accessing not only safe drinking water, shelter and food, but any sexual and reproductive health care they might need. Such care is often the first to face restrictions in terms of availability and access during crises,” says Ginette Mukoka, Ipas DRC policy and partnership advisor.
In response to the Goma crisis, Ipas DRC’s partner in the eastern region of the country, the Youth Alliance for Reproductive Health DRC, worked with other youth organizations to distribute water, sanitary kits and other necessities. They also provided information on where women could receive contraception, assistance for abortions and other sexual and reproductive needs.