In times of crisis, we know that women and girls are often disproportionately affected. Sexual and reproductive health care may be neglected or difficult to access, and disrupted supply chains may reduce access to contraceptives and safe abortion supplies. All these factors can in turn drive more people to seek unsafe abortions.
Ipas is working to ensure that pregnancy care, including abortion care, remains an essential health service during the coronavirus outbreak. Abortion care is a time-sensitive service that cannot be significantly deferred without profound consequences for women and their families.
You can help us guarantee that women still have the power to make their own reproductive health choices during the pandemic. Our COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund supports innovative, fast-moving work to ensure that abortion remains an essential health service.
Abortion is legally restricted in Bolivia and many women seek to end unwanted pregnancies themselves using abortion pills—but they need accurate information on how to safely use the medications.
Recognizing the possible harm women and girls will face if they don’t have accurate information, Ipas Bolivia has been training volunteer “community agents” who provide women with the information they need to make safe decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people seeking information has only increased.
“A woman who decides to end a pregnancy will do it, without regard to any restrictions, quarantine or not,” one community agent says. Agents report they can continue providing information easily via WhatsApp and other online channels during the crisis—thereby reducing the harms women may face.
Ipas is now developing infographics for agents to use that explain how to prevent unwanted pregnancy and deal with sexual violence during pandemic lockdowns. For a broader audience, Ipas Bolivia is also sharing information—like this Facebook post—over social media about sexual and reproductive rights, assuring people their rights do not cease during a quarantine.
MAY 20, 2020
In Bangladesh, Ipas supports 28 health care facilities for Rohingya refugees in the Cox’s Bazaar district, one of the world’s largest refugee camps. For the 900,000 refugees living in the camps, these facilities provide access to family planning services, postabortion care and essential and legal abortion services— known as menstrual regulation (MR) in Bangladesh.
The humanitarian response directive for the Rohingya camps initially did not designate MR as a “critical” service, which led to the temporary suspension of MR services at six of the camps. Travel restrictions were also imposed and only people working in critical services were able to travel. This meant that, at the remaining 22 Ipas-supported clinics, health-care providers were required to sleep away from their families, in or near the clinics, in order not to break the camp’s travel ban so that they can continue offering refugees reproductive health services.
But after weeks of advocacy by Ipas Bangladesh, all clinics are once again in operation. The Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner and the WHO office in Cox’s Bazaar have recognized reproductive health care workers in the facilities as critical providers and have issued vehicle passes to them so they can continue to provide reproductive health services to Rohingya women and girls.
DR. SAYED RUBAYET, Ipas Bangladesh Director
Ipas Bangladesh has been working to provide Rohingya refugees with reproductive health services, including menstrual regulation since 2017. It is important to ensure these services continue to be available during the COVID-19 pandemic and we are pleased that the government has recognized that reproductive health services are critical to the health and well-being of women.”
May 5, 2020
In Kenya, where there are hundreds of confirmed COVID-19 cases and the government has imposed a nighttime curfew and other strict measures, many people are afraid to go to health facilities for fear of being quarantined.
To keep safe abortion care available, the Ipas Africa Alliance is working with partners such as Reproductive Health Network Kenya (RHNK). One way they are tackling this issue is to make sure abortion pills are in stock and available at pharmacies. “We want to bring abortion care to women, rather than having them venture out in ways that may be unsafe because of the virus,” says Dr. Ernest Nyamato, director of Ipas Africa Alliance.
“Many young women, in particular, are now going to pharmacists as their first point of contact for abortion care,” he says, “so we are sending supplies of pills and other abortion-related commodities to pharmacists. We’re trying to help them increase their stock, but it will be difficult, because India is the main source of these pills and there is a transportation lockdown there.”
Along with other members of the Pakistan Alliance for Postabortion Care, a national alliance of more than 40 organizations, Ipas Pakistan has called for federal, provincial and private facilities providing sexual and reproductive health care to remain open and continue providing outpatient services and counseling during the pandemic.
Ipas Pakistan also has issued guidance to help country health systems during this escalation of the viral pandemic. Designed to minimize COVID-19 exposure to women and health staff, the guidance recommends offering women the option of abortion with pills, to lessen the need for going to a health facility. It also recommends maximizing the use of telephone or video links through online platforms such as WhatsApp to provide pre- and postabortion care and assessment.
In partnership with government health officials, Ipas Pakistan has developed messages about postabortion care and contraception during COVID-19 that are being disseminated via WhatsApp to more than 1,600 Lady Health Workers throughout the country. Lady Health Workers are community-based and play a crucial role in connecting women to the public health facilities, particularly in Pakistan’s rural areas.
April 29, 2020