Bangladesh has taken special measures to continue family planning (FP) services uninterrupted during the pandemic lockdown.
“A national preparation and response plan was prepared keeping in mind recent projections from UNFPA on the increase of unintended pregnancies with the continuation of lockdown,” Quazi AKM Mohiul Islam, former Director General for Family Planning, said at an international conference.
He said a special response plan was also taken to address the issue of limited access to family planning services during the pandemic, as well as the complications that arise from termination of pregnancy.
“Government made contraceptives available to all 21 regional warehouses, which were supplying contraceptives to 498 Sub-districts and other family welfare centres,” he said.
Mohiul Islam was speaking as the plenary speaker at the sixth episode of the 10th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights (APCRSHR10) held virtually for Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Ashish Bajracharya, Population Council’s Deputy Director for global country strategy and regional representative for South and East Asia, chaired the session on the theme of “Innovative financing for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in Asia and the Pacific”
The APCRSHR10 secretariat in Cambodia - Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia (RHAC) and the CNS are co-hosting all the virtual sessions.
Mohiul Islam said the Bangladesh government and development partners are working together in the Covid-19 emergency response to ensure screening, testing and treatment of COVID-19 positive cases.
“Although health system's priority has shifted to manage COVID-19 pandemic, it was felt necessary to meet the reproductive health needs of citizens as well,” he said.
“General lockdown resulted in close stay of individuals and couples, increasing chances of sexual activity. The Health Ministry is working with DGFP (family planning services), DGHS (health services), development partners and private sectors to strengthen coordination for contraceptive use during the pandemic,” he said.
“Awareness building activities on SRHR are continuously being done in all FP service centres. All FP service centres are kept open every day during pandemic,” he said.
Modern contraceptive use prevalence rate was 62 percent in Bangladesh in 2017-18. The target was to increase the rate by 75 percent by 2021.
“Due to continuous monitoring and supply of commodities, there were no stock outs during the pandemic. However, community distribution, house to house counselling and satellite sessions were hampered for a few days,” the former director general said.
“But there has been a decline in use of modern FP methods as women are refraining from visiting health facilities due to fears about COVID-19 exposure or due to movement restrictions.
“There has been a significant decrease in uptake of long-term reversible contraceptives. But institutional deliveries followed by postpartum IUD, tubectomy and implants are going on,” he said.
Dr Ashish Bajracharya in his opening remarks gave an overview of the Asia Pacific region.
He said despite the economic growth vast swathes of the population still have an unmet need in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the region.
“In many countries, out of pocket expenditures continue to finance most of the healthcare expenditures and these are unjustly reserved for the elite few in terms of quality as well as timely services.
“There are also socio-demographic processes at play, such as urbanization, labour migration that expose vulnerable populations to additional health risks.
“To address some of these issues it is critical to work towards universal health coverage and to promote sustainable financing strategies, including heightening of commitment of state resources for sexual and reproductive health,” he said.