Written by Muhammad Aslam, Peace Foundation Pakistan
Some of the information will not be so relevant to the current situation, but we think this guide offers useful advice to SRHR advocates.
We are a development organisation working in remote rural and desert areas of two districts of Sindh province, Pakistan. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many changes have put SRH at risk. Young men who travel to work in cities are returning home without income. Women and girls have limited access to SRH services because of poverty and lack of transport with the lockdown. In this crisis we built on our safe-abortion mobile service experience to offer family planning and general medicine. We shifted our AmplifyChange project work in services oversight to help plan and ensure quality.
Due to COVID-19, the issues arising from lockdown have resulted in increases in teenage and unwanted pregnancies, malnutrition, lack of vaccinations and prenatal care. Other issues increasing are rates of unsafe abortion, domestic and sexual violence, maternal mortality and mortality of children under 5. People in remote areas cannot reach their usual source of family planning services, and neither can these health centres travel out at this time to see clients.
We are providing easy, free and accessible family planning services at the doorstep of women and girls living in remote villages. We will reach 800 to 850 women and girls living in 12 villages per month. We are also organising free mobile family planning camps.
The District Office of the Sindh Government Population Department and our 10 Women Watch Dog Groups (AmplifyChange project) share with us a list of villages needing services. We buy supplies at the local market and have our own medical equipment, vehicles and drivers.
We visit these villages and nominate one woman and her brother/husband as focal persons, who receive a small honorarium for helping and set the date and venue for our camp. To reassure the community and clients about our visit we meet men in the village beforehand and distribute informative leaflets about our services and the Peace Foundation.
During our visits, we take care to prevent the spread of infection. Our staff wear protective suits and are equipped with goggles, gloves, N-95 masks, soap, tissues and sanitising liquid. They also use infrared thermometers to check temperatures. We follow strict social distancing guidelines. Clients are served one at a time and our focal person in camp ensures that they have washed their hands and are sprayed with sanitiser beforehand. We also wash daily our van, tables and other equipment.
After providing family planning services we guide our clients to go to their usual service providers for follow-up after 2 or 3 months.
It helped to get permission from the local department in villages we visited. We found clients hesitate sometimes, and also ask for other things like food and general medicine. Our team faced challenges during visits by law enforcing agencies.
We drew help from the Population Welfare Department and used the safety guidelines issued by the Government of Sindh.
Muhammad Aslam has 10 years’ experience in project development, fundraising and partnership, working around expanding sexual and reproductive health (SRH) service coverage. He has a masters degree in Economics and a diploma in Culture and Sexuality from the university of Amsterdam and has been Director of Programs at Peace Foundation Pakistan for the last three years. He has skills in coordinating and building working relationships with donor agencies and emergency response sectors.