Young minds come across questions on their reproductive system during puberty. To feed that they need diverse information on sexual and reproductive health. In Bangladesh, a large group of the population belongs to the age group of (15 to 25), who contribute over 19% of the total population. The COVID-19 pandemic situation has made them stay home, so experts opined to initiate a process to reach them with the appropriate information through online platforms considering their accessibility and popularity.
The suggestion came from a virtual dialogue on the need to ensure young people’s sexual and reproductive health care during this COVID-19 situation, organized by SERAC-Bangladesh on wednesday. SERAC-Bangladesh’s Executive Director Mr. SM Shaikat delivered the welcome speech while the Director General of Family Planning Shahan Ara Banu, NDC chaired the occasion. SM Shaikat mentioned that the pandemic has disrupted the general health service programmes in the country, it has also created barriers for young people and adolescents to access information and services related to their mental health and also sexual and reproductive health. He urged the government to follow up on the implementation of its commitments at the ICPD Nairobi Summit to assure young people’s health and rights are prioritised during this pandemic.
A presentation by SERAC-Bangladesh associate program officer Nusrat Sharmin Resma outlined the taboo and shyness among young people that stops them discussing the challenges at home. Currently about 214 million adolescents and women are facing unmet needs of family planning and contraceptive information globally. Quoting the service providers, a recent report by the Needs Assessment working group of Bangladesh assumes a 43% maternal mortality during this lockdown period. It also said, 26% of married adolescent girls are now encountering an unmet need of family planning.
Recalling the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 in last November, Professor Dr. Mainul Islam of the University of Dhaka expressed concern of getting diverted from the five commitments Bangladesh made to uphold young people’s SRHR as a key to achieve the population dividend.
Speakers emphasised how to adapt with the COVID-19 situation and increase services at the adolescents friendly health corner. They also proposed to form a national level family planning technical committee.
The Director General of Family Planning Shahan Ara Banu said, the DGFP has over 600 adolescent friendly health corners running across the country and a 24/7 hotline number 16767 for providing family planning information to adolescents. She added the government is working closely with civil society and development partners to ensure institutional health care and reducing maternal mortality.
Public health expert Dr. Abu Jamil Faisel stressed to advance meaningful inclusion of youth to create mass awareness on prevention of unplanned pregnancy during this COVID-19 crisis.
DGFP’s Director (CCSDP) Dr. MD Moinuddin Ahmed shared that long acting contraceptive methods will be made more available and popular among young people to reduce unwanted pregnancy in this pandemic.
Director (MCH) of DGFP Dr. Mohammad Sharif said, the government has allocated adequate resources for family planning programmes which need to be properly utilised. He shared the DGFP is seriously considering improvement of AFHCs and a process will be undertaken to include services for the age group of 15 to 25 through revising the current operational plan.
Discussants include UNFPA program specialist Dr. Abu Sayed Mohammad Hasan, UNICEF adolescent health specialist Dr. Abu Sadat Mohammad Sayem, Program manager (MCH) DGFP Dr. Md. Jaynal, Women Deliver Young Leader Md. Ashrafur Rahman, MSH representative Dr. Jebunnesa Rahman, Options Consultancy country lead Dr. Nadira Sultana, Wish2Action country manager Dr. Sanjida Hasan, Adolescent specialist Pathfinder International Dr. Fatema Shabnam, Tanusree Manji of Mariestopes Bangladesh, Assistant Director of DGFP Matiur Rahman and more than 50 youth representatives from all divisions of the country attended the national level discussion. The event was supported by Population Action International (PAI).