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UNFPA supports development of guidelines to ensure continuity of reproductive health services during COVID-19 pandemic

In March 2020, the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) a public health emergency of international concern. Following this declaration, the Government of Uganda disseminated national guidelines on COVID-19 preventive measures that included a lockdown and ban on movement. These restrictions on mobility affected access to essential health services as both community members and health care workers could not access health facilities. Some of the most critically affected were reproductive health services as an analysis of the Ministry of Health’s weekly surveillance data on access to and utilisation of health services for the period January to March 2020 revealed. The analysis showed a decline in the reporting rates in the month of March when the lockdown took effect, specifically a decrease in access to essential services including; antenatal care, skilled delivery at health facilities and family planning. The data also shows an increase in maternal and neonatal deaths.

In an effort to help reverse these trends, UNFPA along with health development and implementing partners has supported the Ministry of Health (MOH) to implement measures to ensure continuity of essential reproductive health services in the context of the COVID-19 response. UNFPA has supported the Ministry of health developed two sets of guidelines i.e. Guidelines for management of pregnant, breastfeeding women, and infants in the context of COVID-19 and Guidelines for the sexual and reproductive health and rights: access to modern contraceptives in the context of COVID-19.

The number of family planning users has gone up while maternal deaths have increased, according to data from the Ministry of Health. Source DHIS2

The guidelines were developed through a consultative process with extensive involvement of stakeholders through the technical working groups including the Maternal and Child Health Cluster and Family Planning/Reproductive Health Commodity Security, and COVID-19 Essential Services Subcommittee meetings. UNFPA provided technical support in drafting and reviewing these guidelines. These guidelines are ready to be disseminated and roll out to districts and health facilities across the country. UNFPA will further be part of this process and spearhead the roll out in its targeted districts.

UNFPA will continue to support the Ministry of health and e to ensure a well-organized and prepared health system with the capacity to maintain equitable access to essential service delivery throughout this COVID-19 pandemic period.