The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the gender, racial and economic inequities in health–care systems around the world that make it difficult for women, people of color, LGBTQ people and other marginalized groups to get the essential health care they need. These same structural inequities have long blocked equitable access to safe abortion care.
During the pandemic, Ipas is working to ensure that abortion and contraceptive care remain essential health services—and that all people can access them. We know that sexual and reproductive health care is often neglected or difficult to access during a crisis, and disrupted supply chains can reduce access to contraceptives and safe abortion supplies. All these factors can in turn drive more people to seek unsafe abortions that risk their health and lives. We can’t let that happen.
Make a difference
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.
© Ipas Malawi
In Malawi, youth educators train chiefs to protect reproductive health during the pandemic
In Malawi, Ipas-trained youth educators on sexual and reproductive health and rights are meeting with chiefs (local community leaders) in Ndirande to help them understand how to prevent unintended pregnancies in their communities. The youth educators also work with them to protect sexual and reproductive health services as essential services that must continue during the COVID-19 pandemic. In parts of Malawi, unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion among young people appears to be rising sharply due to COVID-19 and its impact on communities.
Ipas videos on abortion with pills attract almost a million views
Ipas Central America and Mexico (Ipas CAM) created two informational videos in Spanish on how women can safely self-manage an abortion using pills. The unexpected popularity of the videos shows just how badly this information is needed.
Abortion pills without doctor visits temporarily legal in U.S
A federal court ruled that U.S. doctors can dispense the abortion drug mifepristone remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, so that people needing early abortion care don’t have to risk exposure to COVID-19 by fulfilling the requirement to visit a doctor in person to pick up the pills and sign a form. The American Civil Liberties Union, which led a coalition of medical experts and reproductive rights advocates who brought the case, said: “We look forward to a day when … this medically baseless requirement is lifted once and for all.”
In Mozambique, preventing COVID-19 and ensuring abortion care continues
Ipas Mozambique has a multifaceted approach to ensuring women and girls can still access needed reproductive health care—with minimal risk of COVID-19 infection—during the pandemic.
Ipas Development Foundation
In India, working to protect reproductive health and combat COVID-19
Ipas Development Foundation (IDF) in India is working to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the public health system, with efforts such as providing personal protective equipment and virtual trainings to health workers. “IDF is committed to keeping reproductive health on the national and state agendas and to strengthening partnerships to meaningfully improve the lives of women and girls across the country,” says IDF Chief Executive Officer Vinoj Manning in an article in The Good Sight.
Youth leaders provide crucial reproductive health information during pandemic
Youth leaders trained by Ipas Development Foundation (IDF) in India are getting back to work providing much-needed information on sexual and reproductive health—including on contraception and pregnancy prevention—to the young men and women in their communities. They’re also referring young people for needed care at local health centers.
“In this time of crisis, it is heartening for me to see that men are supportive of the reproductive health needs of their female family members and are approaching me for referrals,” says male youth leader Shashi Bhushan Soy.
In Latin America, building the world we want after the pandemic
This pandemic is showing everyone how important a strong public health system is
– MARIA ANTONIETA ALCALDE, director of Ipas Central America and Mexico
AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad
Answering ‘the need of the hour’ in Pakistan
A new telehealth initiative in Pakistan is giving women and girls access to reproductive health counseling and information without leaving their homes. Telehealth consultations on medical abortion, abortion self-care and postabortion contraception are now available from more than 20 health professionals who have received special online training. “These providers can offer consultations at any time of day, whether it’s by phone, the internet or smartphone apps,” says Ghulam Shabbir Awan, director of Ipas Pakistan. With physical access to health facilities in Pakistan severely limited by the country’s rapidly growing number of COVID-19 cases, providing women and girls an alternative way to get reproductive health counseling and information “is the need of the hour,” he says.
‘Standing tall’ in the midst of a pandemic
Health workers across India whose pre-pandemic work revolved around providing reproductive health are still working to keep those services available whenever possible. Many are also stepping up to provide COVID-related services as well—even when it means putting their personal lives on hold. Here are three workers making this above-and-beyond effort:
Hilda Lakra, an auxiliary nurse midwife trained in comprehensive contraceptive care by the Ipas Development Foundation (IDF), wants to ensure that women continue to get contraceptive services during the pandemic. She had planned to get married on May 1, but postponed her wedding and has been staying in the staff quarters of a community health center in Jharkhand. She’s also been providing health services at shelter homes where hundreds of migrants are quarantined and assessed for symptoms of COVID-19.
Irani Bora Rajkhowa is affiliated with IDF’s program for young women in Assam. She is well-acquainted with the stigma surround abortion care and now is fighting against COVID stigma. When a family in Sonari village returned from a visit to Mumbai, residents were panicked, fearing that the family might be spreading the virus. She worked to educate villagers about the virus and to get COVID tests for the family (which were negative). She is now working to track and monitor people with a travel history, getting those with symptoms to testing centers—and she’s still supervising community health workers who assist with home deliveries of essential contraceptives.
Dr. Radhey Shyam Dautaniya is an IDF-trained abortion provider, but has now been called upon to work fulltime to conduct home screenings for COVID-19 in Jaipur, Rajasthan, which has been hit hard by the pandemic. He married only months ago, but because his work now exposes him to a lot of people, his wife is staying with her parents as he works round-the-clock to provide the vital screenings.
These health workers are standing tall in the midst of the pandemic,” says Vinoj Manning, chief executive officer of IDF. “We are inspired by their selfless work to fight COVID-19.”
COVID-19 restrictions compromised abortion access for 1.85 million women in India
The first three months of India’s national lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19 compromised abortion access for an estimated 1.85 million women, according to a new study by the Ipas Development Foundation (IDF).
Putting women at the center of the COVID-19 response in Malawi
“Our response integrates all the needs of the woman so that she can continue to access reproductive health care during the pandemic,” says Ipas Malawi Director Pansi Katenga. Read about the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls in Malawi and Ipas’s comprehensive solution.
Helping health workers prevent infection
© Ipas Nepal
The Ipas Nepal team preparing boxes of personal protective equipment to dispatch to health centers they support (above). The team delivered thousands of masks and gloves, plus eye protection, hand sanitizer, soap and other supplies to more than 300 health institutions, including in Duhabi (yellow building) and Biratnagar (green building).
© Ipas Nepal
© Ipas Nepal
Ipas is working to give health providers the information, training and supplies they need—including personal protective equipment (PPE)—so they can safely offer abortion and contraceptive care during the pandemic. In Nepal, Ipas supports the government’s COVID-19 response by distributing PPE to health centers and hospitals—and directly to Female Community Health Volunteers who connect women with health information and referrals.
Ipas Nepal has focused on PPE deliveries to extremely remote and isolated districts where health workers face a particularly acute need for protective equipment. At Mangalbare Primary Health Care Center in Nepal’s Ilam District, for example, health providers felt unsafe giving women contraceptive implants because they lacked PPE, and so they had started only offering condoms and contraceptive pills. One provider told the Ipas Nepal team she had young children at home and simply couldn’t risk infection. After Ipas delivered boxes of PPE to the facility, this same provider reported she felt happier and safer—and the center had restarted implant services and already provided four women with implants within just two days.
Courtesy of Joypurhat District Hospital
At the Joypurhat District Hospital in Bangladesh, Ipas remotely managed the placement of handwashing basins in public areas for patients and visitors to use before entering and exiting.
Courtesy of Joypurhat District Hospital
The hospital superintendent (left) and local parliament member (right) inaugurated the new handwashing basins, intended to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Keeping women’s health essential despite COVID-19 shortages
Ipas staff and partners around the world are working furiously to protect access to contraception and abortion during the pandemic. Ipas President and CEO Anu Kumar shares examples of the innovative solutions that are emerging in this opinion piece published by CNN.
In Bolivia, an influx of women seeking information on abortion with pills
© Ipas Bolivia
Ipas Bolivia trains volunteer community agents who provide women with the information they need.
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.
We’re using every channel and avenue we have to share information about safe abortion, contraception and reproductive rights,” says Malena Morales, director of Ipas Bolivia. “Now more than ever we’re relying on our networks and partnerships to protect women’s access to care.”
MAY 20, 2020
A critical victory for women and girls in Rohingya camps in Bangladesh
© Farzana Hossen
© Farzana Hossen
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.
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.”
DR. SAYED RUBAYET, Ipas Bangladesh Director