The power of choice: Ensuring access to family planning in the COVID-19 era

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Last week, Devex and Bayer co-hosted a virtual discussion with global health leaders and supply chain experts to explore ways of accelerating access to contraceptives and family planning services during an unprecedented health crisis — and also in the years ahead.

Can women's health clinics regain ground after 'the most disruptive interruption'?

Logistical challenges and supply chain bottlenecks have challenged women's access to sexual and reproductive health care during COVID-19. Telemedicine and other new strategies may find a permanent place in this work moving forward.

The virtual event brought together key experts from the United Nations Population Fund, Bayer, the Center for Global Development, and Women in Global Health. Panelists emphasized the need for increased support for the safeguarding of sexual and reproductive health and rights during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“We need to send a very crystal-clear message here, and the message is that the sexual and reproductive rights agenda has to remain in the spotlight,” said Mariarosa Cutillo, chief of strategic partnerships at UNFPA. “COVID-19 is not only impacting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in general, but it is really putting at stake this agenda.”

She was joined by Stefan Oelrich, president of pharmaceuticals at Bayer, for a fireside chat highlighting a new partnership aimed at leveraging the expertise and innovation of Bayer to work on UNFPA’s supply chain and its medical logistics in a set of key countries where the humanitarian need is now more urgent than ever.

A visual representation of the conversation, created live during the event. Illustration by: Chris Shipton

A wider panel conversation also featured Prashant Yadav, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, who noted that the issue concerns not just the disruption of the supply chain for contraceptives, but also the disruption of things that we need for the health and safety of front-line health professionals to guarantee service delivery.

“There’s a need to ensure enough [personal protective equipment] is reaching the providers who are providing contraceptive services — that’s where we can ensure that the demand side and delivery side doesn’t get adversely impacted,” Yadav said.

Roopa Dhatt, executive director and co-founder of Women in Global Health, said that COVID-19 is currently diverting resources from all parts of the health system and stressed that countries everywhere must include maternity and reproductive health as essential health services.

To learn more, watch the event above and join the conversation online using the hashtags #DevexLIVE and #ThePowerOfChoice.

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