THROUGH 2gether 4 SRHR, an integrated Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) programme, Zimbabwe has continued offering services to young girls and women in the districts the initiative is being implemented despite the raging effects of COVID-19.
By Michael Gwarisa
The 2gether 4 SRHR program is a joint initiative which is being implemented in 10 selected countries in East and Southern Africa, Zimbabwe included. The program aims among other things to reduce unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), new HIV infections, maternal mortality and sexual and gender-based violence (GBV).
Speaking during a Brown Bag Webinar meeting that was held under the theme “integration of HIV/SRH/GBV services for adolescents and young people including pregnant and breast-feeding adolescents and young mothers and the impact of COVID 19”, the National Maternal Health Officer in the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), Chipo Chimamise said, “While there was a reduction in access to general SRHR services by adolescents and young people due to COVID-19 lockdown, access to contraceptives was not affected in SIDA supported 13 districts.”
The Joint United Nations programme started in 2018 and runs up to December 2021 and being implemented by various United Nations (UN) agencies in the ten countries including Zimbabwe namely UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO through funding from the Regional Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Team of the Government of Sweden.
However, there is need to improve collaboration with the Ministry of Gender and Women Affairs. Concerningly we have learned that Adolescents have been left behind in the national COVID 19 response-therefore, there is need to urgently develop and implement innovative adolescent and young people friendly approaches to alleviate the impact of COVID 19 -(such as reducing adolescents pregnancies, child marriages, mental health issues, drug and substance abuse as well as promoting COVID 19 vaccination for young people 14 years and above,” she said.
She commended the capacity building of all health facilities in the targeted 13 districts, to provide adolescents friendly services which she said was a strategic shift from the old approach of training adolescent focal persons and needs to be cascaded nationally.
“We have Proof of concept of successful Pilot interventions conducted. Therefore this is the time to invest in a national program to scale up the interventions nationwide beyond the 13 district. The conversations here will be carried forward we will amplify the voices and solutions for adolescents, young women and those most marginalised.
"Let us continue to support a unified response to end HIV, GBV, improved access to SRHR services to fulfil the promise of universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. We now have proof that together we can reduce unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), new HIV infections, maternal mortality and sexual and gender-based violence.
“We also know that the best service delivery approach is one stop center with youth user friendly interventions. As mentioned earlier, this is the time and the best opportunity to scale up the project to a national program.I am calling upon the Government of Zimbabwe, Civil society, development partners, Global Fund and the UN to pitch in. No one partner can do this alone.”
She also commended the Ministry of Health and Child Care and its NGO partners for their continued leadership she said was clearly demonstrated throughout the project and participation in the brown bag event today.
“Mental health among adolescents has been worsened by the COVID19 lockdown. We acknowledge the importance of Adolescents mental wellbeing and this will be a key component in the new UNICEF country programme 2022-2026.”