The covid-19 pandemic has exposed a lot of gaps in the delivery of Sexual Reproductive Health Services and promoting rights among the young people.
Numerous cases of sexual violence and teenage pregnancies have been reported during this period as per media and police reports.
To counter the occurrence and minimize the burden of the cases, activists in the reproductive health sphere have called for collective action to ensure that reproductive rights for young people are protected and promoted.
Themed “Unifying Efforts Towards the Realization of Sexual and Reproductive Health and the Right to Health during Health Emergencies in Uganda,” the National E- Conference on sexual and reproductive health rights held yesterday attracted views from key stakeholders.
Dr Olive Sentumbwe, Family Health and Population Advisor, World Health Organisation said that community has a role to play in promoting Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR).
She said the importance of coming together has been shown by emergence of covid-19.
“Collaboration, planning, and coordination of resources will help us more. We can’t stop SRHR needs even when there is COVID-19. Service delivery must continue. We should all organize and pull together so that we have more service delivery,” she said.
Betty Kyadondo, Director of Family Health, National Population Council (NPC) emphasized the need to prioritize SRHR in all phases of the COVID-19 fight.
She said that the pandemic caused serious threats to women and girls’ work. They have experienced serious economic shocks leaving them vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
“Numbers of teenage pregnancies are escalating, and we need to do something. We need to continue spreading awareness of SRHR services. We need to bring parents on board; if they forget their task of talking to their children about sex, they will get it elsewhere,” she said.
Betty Kayondo. Director of Family Health, National Population Council (NPC)Henry Ssemakula, from the Ministry of Education and Sports emphasized that cultural leaders are influential, and that they need to be engaged in such programs. He noted, however, that parents should do their part.
Fatia Kiyange, the Deputy Executive Director CHEHURD said that the wellbeing of young people doesn’t only require the efforts of health workers but community efforts too.
“We are going to lose more mothers if SRHR services are not considered essential in the pandemic. People are dying of more serious diseases besides COVID-19. Women are dying due to lack of blood and some are delivering by the road sides. However, it is not yet too late. We should intentionally target parents and teach teenagers to handle such issues,” she said.
Eunice Musiime, Executive Director Akina Mama Wa Africa, said that there’s need to punish those who commit sexual violence crimes.
“We see a lot of cases of sexual violence but we haven’t seen the perpetrators punished. The criminality of these acts starts at the highest level,” she said.
However, Olla Hällgren, counsellor head of the development cooperation section – Embassy of Sweden in Uganda, said that governments must recognize that SRHR services are essential during and after the pandemic.
He also said that addressing SRHR issues is crucial for sustainable development.
Olla Hällgren, head of development corporation section – Embassy of Sweden in Uganda“Sweden remains committed to this important work, and we look forward to working together on the issues of SRHR,” he said.