BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
THE Health ministry and its development partners have turned food distribution points into sexual and reproductive health centres in order to bring the service closer to communities.
Since the imposition of the national lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 on March 30, many people found it difficult to access contraception services because of restrictions on movement, resulting in unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions.
Early this year, a rapid assessment of COVID-19 response in the context of maternal, sexual and reproductive health in Zimbabwe showed that the COVID-19 outbreak had affected women and young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health services, including access to family planning.
To counter this hurdle, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) entered into a partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) together with the Health and Child Care ministry, and are distributing male and female condoms and sharing sexual reproductive health information at the WFP’s food distribution points throughout the country.
“This has been a great innovation that has brought sexual and reproductive health services closer to communities. To date 1,8 million male condoms and 88 000 female condoms have been moved from NatPharm to WFP for onward distribution to communities,”said UNFPA country representative Esther Muia.
She added that they had reprogrammed their work to facilitate and ensure women and girls have access to contraception during the pandemic.
WFP Zimbabwe country director Francesca Erdelmann said: “Food distribution points were deep in the communities and in close proximity and reach to the general population, making it easier and more convenient for communities to access essential and life-saving sexual and reproductive health and rights service.”
WFP has a standing arrangement with the government of Zimbabwe for distribution of food with over 1 500 distribution points, covering 311 157 households in 60 districts, mainly over the lean season before the next harvest.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe on Saturday joined the rest of the world in celebrating Contraception Day with calls for greater efforts to ensure access to contraceptives for women and girls of reproductive age.
Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council executive director Munyaradzi Murwira said the country had made great strides towards improving access to reproductive services.