COVID-19 Won’t Stop Family Planning Progress in Plateau State, Nigeria
COVID-19 has impacted all the states that The Challenge Initiative (TCI) supports in Nigeria, including Plateau state. However, the government lockdowns, physical distancing and gathering restrictions have not slowed efforts by community members or government stakeholders to continue to raise awareness and promote quality family planning services. As a result of TCI’s coaching support, local childbirth spacing (CBS) champions and government stakeholders are able to continue their efforts, learning to better leverage technology platforms to extend their messages and provide even more support at this critical time.
Interfaith Leader Promotes Childbirth Spacing During Lockdown
Pastor Julius Arabo, co-chair of the Plateau state interfaith forum, charged forum members to continue to use their platforms to speak out about childbirth spacing, especially during the government-imposed lockdown in Plateau state due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pastor Julius made this call through WhatsApp.
The lockdown has given me the opportunity to speak to men on childbirth spacing. Men are understanding that they manage their resources better with a reasonable family size. It is time to talk to men about CBS, it is not a time that should be taken for granted. We are locked down, but we can talk about CBS using media platforms or our local loudspeakers located in worship places. A man told me that he now understands what his wife is going through in running the family and that he appreciates the space between their kids, and he wished he had such experience before, so now is the time to engage men on childbirth spacing.”
Using Virtual Platforms to Continue Providing Quality Family Planning Services
TCI provides coaching to Nigerian states to implement proven family planning and adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH) interventions and to execute their day-to-day activities efficiently. The lockdowns presented an opportunity to coach state government officials on how to use virtual platforms to conduct their activities remotely to reduce human contact and flatten the curve of the pandemic.
In Plateau state, following coaching by TCI, Mrs. Hannatu Dung, the State Reproductive Health Coordinator, and Mrs. Rahila Telfim, the Family Planning Coordinator, used both Zoom and WhatsApp to hold weekly meetings during the pandemic to continue regular coaching of local government managers and frontline health workers on family planning commodities and logistics management systems. Their ability to continue reaching and coaching health workers on family planning commodity management using virtual platforms mitigated and ensured no commodity stockouts during the lockdown. Using the platforms, the coordinators also ensured execution of other TCI proven interventions and strategies for integrating family planning with COVID-19 management/intervention across primary health care centers in the state. The weekly sessions hosted by the coordinators lasted for approximately two hours every week and went on for a period of five weeks. The coordinators reached a total of about 684 health workers across the 17 local government areas in Plateau state. Telfim said:
Thanks to TCI for coaching and supporting us to use this virtual platform to develop the capacity of frontline service providers! The effect is easy and clear to see – for we are able to reach our providers both far and wide and are able to solve challenges real-time in the field.”
Dung explained the significance of the use of these virtual platforms in hosting meetings with staff:
The use of the virtual platforms makes it a lot easier for us to reach out to other frontline service providers during the pandemic without the risk of exposure and it is sustainable due to its wide range of coverage and cost-effectiveness as it only involves data cost.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that with regular coaching support, TCI’s stakeholders and partners can readily adapt to any crisis situation.