Options' work as part of the UK aid funded WISH2Action programme, provides technical assistance to seven countries in South Asia (Bangladesh and Pakistan) and Sub-Saharan Africa (Malawi, Madagascar, Zambia, Tanzania, and Uganda) to create an enabling environment for sexual and reproductive health/family planning (SRH/FP) services and increase national ownership.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, our role became even more important since the virus outbreak shifted government priorities to managing the pandemic response. This subsequently led to the disruption in the delivery of essential health services and threatened to reverse the SRH/FP gains these countries have made to date.
At the start of the pandemic, we had been implementing the WISH2Action programme in these seven countries for 15 months, and had built a strong relationship with governments when COVID-19 struck. This learning brief outlines our experience in working with governments during the pandemic to ensure access to SRH/FP services remains a priority, and our efforts to keep the pre-COVID-19 enabling environment work on track. The brief also draws out wider lessons on the range of actions that can be taken at policy and systems level to protect SRH/FP services during a health emergency in different country.