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UNFPA responds to COVID-19 in West Nile and Northern Uganda

As the scale of the COVID-19 crisis and its consequences become ever more apparent and alarming, access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services is a significant public health issue that requires high attention.

“As with most crises, this pandemic has severely disrupted access to life-saving sexual and reproductive health services and hampered authorities’ ability to respond to gender-based violence, at a time when women and girls need these services most,” UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem said in a statement released on March 26.

In line with its mandate of ensuring rights and choices for all, UNFPA’s focus is to prevent COVID-19 human-to-human transmission by ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence services are sustained and procuring and delivering essential supplies to protect health workers.

“UNFPA is working with governments and partners to prioritize the particular needs of women and girls, in line with our goals to end unmet need for family planning, end preventable maternal deaths, and end gender-based violence and harmful practices by 2030,” the Executive Director said.

Protection of health workers, in particular midwives, nurses, obstetricians and anaesthesiologists is also a priority area. As critical and lifesaving, they should be provided with personal protective equipment if they are treating patients with COVID-19, she further added.

This week, UNFPA dispatched a consignment of personal protective equipment for health workers including gloves, masks and sanitizers to the West Nile and Northern Uganda districts of Moyo, Arua, Obongi, Madi Okollo, Yumbe, Adjumani and Gulu with the objective of ensuring that frontline workers are protected in their line of duty.

UNFPA also donated a 50- seater tent to Zombo district Local Government to enable them establish an Isolation centre in the district. The tent was on handed over to the District Health Officer, Dr. Mark Bonny Bramali by the UNFPA Programme Coordinator, Arua, Mr. Denis Bakomeza in the presence of Medical Director, Holy family Hospital Nyapea, Dr. Jammy Omara. UNFPA will support implementation in 14 districts of West Nile and northern Uganda.

In Uganda, as of April 4, the Ministry of Health announced a total of 48 confirmed cases of COVID 19. While in comparison this figure may still seem low, UNFPA is, on a daily basis, monitoring the situation to ensure that the pandemic does not affect access to and provision of essential SRHR services.

In collaboration and partnership with World Health Organisation (WHO) and other UN agencies, UNFPA is supporting the Ministries of Health and relevant line ministries is key to ensuring that accurate information is provided to women of reproductive age including pregnant women on infection precautions, potential risks and how to seek timely medical care.

--Written by Denis Bakomeza