CategoriesAfNHI Blog WACI Health News

Effects Of Covid-19 On Sexual Effects Of Covid-19 On Sexual Reproductive Health And Rights (Srhr) Among Young People In Africa Health And Rights (Srhr) Among Young People In Africa

Mid-April, I was privileged to join the Live webcast on discussions around the Effects of COVID-19 on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) among young people in Africa. The panelists included experts in the medical, advocacy, and policy fields: Dr. Charlene Biwott (KEMRI, Kenya), Millicent Sethaile (Her Voice Ambassador, Botswana), and Levi Singh (Youth SRHR Strategy Officer, South Africa). The moderator was Evelyne Odhiambo (AfNHi Youth Cohort, Kenya). Important to note were conversations around the vulnerability of young people during this pandemic where the younger populations have so far been the least vulnerable to complications and death from COVID-19 and yet play a very key role in flattening the COVID-19 curve by minimizing transmissions to the vulnerable populations in our society that include the immune-compromised and the elderly.

Currently, there has been a great shift of focus in Africa to cater to the COVID-19 pandemic thereby impacting negatively in other areas including SRHR. Some of the effects on SRHR include:

  • Reduced access to family planning services which in turn impairs the women’s ability to exercise choice and control over their fertility. This may lead to unplanned pregnancies, abortions, gender inequalities by reducing women’s opportunities in education, employment, and full participation in society.
  • Increase in Gender-based Violence (GBV) where this pandemic puts the young people at risk especially girls and young women by cutting them off from the essential protection services and social networks. This could be in the form of rape, intimate partner violence (IPV), defilement, early and forced marriages.
  • Economic stress leading to transactional sex and exploitation, social vulnerability may lead to increased incidences of HIV infections, STIs, and social stigma.
  • Increased risks of mental health issues including and not limited to depression, suicidal rates, and psychosocial trauma.
  • Global lock-downs and movement restrictions create barriers for young to access health services like youth-friendly clinics, comprehensive care clinics (CCC), and access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
  • Social stigma may lead to difficulties in obtaining documentation for instance P3 forms to prove any incidences of social violations. The process of seeking justice has slowed down as well during this period.
  • Higher rates of maternal and perinatal mortality due to the reduced access to friendly SRH services like safe abortion services, antenatal care, and skilled attendance during delivery.

There have been negative experiences by young people seeking SRHR in Botswana with their current lockdown as described by Ms. Sethaile where young people who had long term contraceptive methods are finding it difficult to access health care for the management of the side effects since movement is restricted and monitored, there is lack of access to essential medications like ARVs, 7 days into the lockdown there were over 28 reported rape cases and nowhere to report. Lastly, their law enforcement currently not taking up GBV cases as more efforts goes to COVID-19.

Interesting conversations also arose around the intersectionality of COVID-19 and SRHR and these included: First, countries to ensure access to SRHR services. Secondly, the need for political support in availability, accessibility, and security of SRHR commodities. Thirdly, we have existing policies and commitments like the MAPUTO plan of action which guides the African Union States on SRHR policy framework that ensures universal access to comprehensive sexual reproductive health services, Also, there is the recent United Nations summit on International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD 25). These policies and commitments foster the need to hold the member states accountable on matters SRHR. Lastly, it is important to engage the youth so as to understand and have their voices presented so as to effectively meet their needs.

From the above conversations, the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the readiness and preparedness of a global epidemic, different systemic and structural gaps exist which include but not limited to lack of or inadequate shelters that can accommodate women who are abused, inadequate human and capital resources on SRHR and mental health all of which will have a massive impact on the rights and access to health care. Countries need to ensure that there is proper balancing of resources and priorities so that not all human and capital resources are geared towards COVID-19 effort at the expense of other health service provisions.

CategoriesBlog YL4H

YL4H presents statement to AU Commission; wants health systems in Africa strengthened

Twenty-five African Youth Leaders passionate about health and healthcare systems have called on African leaders and policymakers to be committed to ending the malaria epidemic and achieving universal health coverage (UHC).

The young advocates, drawn from three African countries: Ghana, Sierra Leone and Tanzania under the Youth Leaders for Health (YL4H) Programme made this call when they presented a statement to the Deputy Chairperson African Union Commission, Ambassador Kwesi Quartey in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The YL4H delegation in a group photo with the Amb. Quartey

In the same vein, the youth leaders also expressed their readiness to advocate for policy change at key national, regional and global advocacy moments for better health outcomes.

“As youth leaders, we pledge our ongoing support as partners and stakeholders in achieving health priorities within our own countries and across Africa. We support political and resource commitments to combat and eliminate diseases such as HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria that have continued to plague our continent disproportionately,” the statement from the youth leaders read.

Dr. Sylvia Anie, Technical Adviser to the initiative commented, “Africa is home to 93% of the world’s malaria burden. It is time for renewed and enhanced political, private sector and community response.”
Youth Leaders for Health is a joint initiative by WACI Health, Hope for Future Generations (Ghana), Health Promotion Tanzania-HDT, CISMAT- SL and RESULTS UK with support from Comic Relief and in partnership with Malaria No More UK.

The young advocates are in Addis Ababa for a five- day training programme on advocacy. They are bound to influence decision-makers during a range of pivotal moments such as national elections, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and World Malaria Day towards ending the malaria epidemic, achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and create lasting impact.

YL4H representatives presents the statement to the Deputy Chairperson of the AU Amb. Kwesi Quartey 1

In his response, Ambassador Kwesi Quartey commended the Youth Leaders for Health and the implementing partners for their efforts which is aligned with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 (The blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future).

He pledged the African Union’s support for the programme, granting permission for a banner to be mounted by the youth leaders at the AU Headquarters, to remind African leaders on the need to strengthen the health systems in their respective countries.

Ambassador Kwesi Quartey also promised to deliver the statement to the African Leaders at the upcoming Summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa.

“Advocacy is about collective action and utilizing the right opportunities to push for action. We are glad the Deputy Chairperson of the African Union committed to conveying the message from the Youth Leaders for Health during the African Union Summit,” said Farhan Yusuf, one of the advocates from Tanzania.
Augustine Kumah, a youth leader from Ghana also said:

“Africa has over the years recorded high malaria morbidity and mortality. It’s time for us the youth to change that narrative. We need not keep our voices to ourselves but speak up to ensure a better health system to achieve a continent free of Malaria.”

For her part, the Executive Director of WACI Health, Rosemary Mburu, noted that changing the trajectory of malaria will demand high-level political leadership in Africa.

Miss Rita Lodonu, the project lead from Hope for Future Generations (Ghana) was of the view that the statement would be a reminder to stakeholders and policy-makers to recommit to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a whole.

Mr Pushpanath Campaings Manager For the YL4H introducing the delegation.

CategoriesBlog

Among the most vulnerable to coronavirus: The tens of millions who carry HIV and tuberculosis

NAIROBI — The novel coronavirus is racing toward a collision with two longer-running pandemics, as waves of HIV and tuberculosis infections have left tens of millions of people in the developing world particularly vulnerable to the new threat.

The regions hit hardest by HIV and tuberculosis are in Africa and South Asia, where the coronavirus is spreading rapidly. The countries most at risk include South Africa, home to the world’s largest number of HIV-positive people, and India, which has the highest number of tuberculosis cases in the world.

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CategoriesBlog GFAN Africa

International Women’s Day 2020 – I am Generation Equality

IWD1

On 8 March 2020, we marked International Women’s Day. The theme for this year was “I am Generation  Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”. The campaign on realizing women’s rights for an equal future demands equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, an end to sexual harassment and violence against women and girls, healthcare services that respond to women’s needs, and their equal participation in political life and in decision-making in all spheres of life. Women and their needs are under-represented in these aspects. 2020 is distinct, because it marks 25 years since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action which is considered the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights.

To mark this day, GFAN Africa ran an online social media campaign sharing posters with messages on women’s health, empowerment and gender equality. A total of 14 organizations in these countries joined in the campaign: Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, South Africa, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Cameroon. – Achieving UHC means leaving no one behind.

  • On this #IWD2020, we urge increased domestic resources for health to ensure #Health4all including the poorest & marginalized women & girls.
  • On this #IWD2020, we think of adolescent girls & young women experiencing high rates of new HIV infections. Urgent action is needed to ensure #Health4all
  • Exponentially increasing domestic investments to ensure #Health4all is good for gender
    equality & women’s rights #IWD2020

 

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CategoriesBlog GFAN Africa WACI Health News YL4H

Young Women Must be Empowered to Step Up The Fight

WEF4 scaled

On 4 September 2019, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum for Africa, Civil Society for Prevention (CS 4 Prevention) with the support of WACI Health, GFAN Africa, the Global Fund, Zoolooh Internationa and Thembekile Mandela Foundation hosted young women from South Africa and had conversations with experts on empowering young women. This is because young women must overcome barriers that hold them back and increase their vulnerability to HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. Only when they are empowered can they #stepupthefight.

In the format of panel discussions and a world café, discussants beamed the spotlight on the status of young women and HIV in Africa, stepping up opportunities for young women at the work place and increasing young women’s access to business, work, and education opportunities.

There were discussions on the vulnerabilities of young women towards HIV; the grim situation in the years when there was no treatment, and the progress made so far, especially with support from the Global Fund. Investments by the Global Fund have saved 27 million lives since 2002. HIV treatment is available for free, and there are innovative collaborations with the private sector to ensure access to treatment. Linda Mafu the Head of Civil Society and Political Advocacy at the Global Fund noted “days are gone when meetings started with candle lit moments of silence because a person we knew had died of AIDS”. Representatives of SANAC and UNAIDS participating in the meeting were urged to ensure that young women are always at the table where decisions on HIV touching on them are made.

Economic empowerment of young women – For young women who need to find their way to into the work place, there were discussions on how to stand out as employees “you must have very strong work ethics, have realistic expectations, ensure social media decorum and prove your competence daily” advised Ncumisa Khoali, Human Resources and Administration Manager at TrakerSA

Young women interested in being entrepreneurs were advised that they must be seek financial and non-financial support – mental and spiritual support, physical support and to avoid short cuts. At the forum, the young women got opportunities for psycho social support, business support, employment and training on personal development.

 

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