Webinar Shares Lessons Learned from Kenya and Uganda in Ensuring Family Planning Services During COVID-19
Contributors: Assumpta Matekwa, Nancy Aloo, Albert Bwire, Beatrice Bainomugisha and Sarah Brittingham
Program managers, government officials from East Africa and staff from other TCI hubs gathered virtually on a webinar Sept. 23 to hear lessons learned from Kenya and Uganda about ensuring family planning service delivery amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. TCI coaches supporting Migori, Nyamira and Vihiga counties in Kenya and Kiira, Nansan and Wakiso divisions in Uganda detailed the unprecedented challenges that have arisen since the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in the region in March and April. The coaches noted how the wide scale diversion of scarce human and financial resources to manage pandemic response coupled with the public’s fear to interact with the health system threatened the progress the region has experienced in increased family planning client volume.
TCI’s efforts in East Africa have contributed to an overall 46% increase in annual family planning client volume in TCI-supported sites when comparing June 2020 to baseline. East Africa’s 41 TCI-supported cities have recorded 637,380 additional users since baseline, and the modern contraceptive prevalence rate could be as high as 5% based on TCI’s modeling of HMIS data. But between March and June, the increasing trend in family planning acceptors in Kenya and Uganda slowed following presidential directives requiring citizens to stay home because of COVID-19.
In the webinar, presenters highlighted how local governments are adapting TCI’s high impact approaches across the domains of service delivery, demand generation and advocacy to address emergent needs for continued quality family planning services. For example, community health workers and village health teams have stepped up as the “unsung heroes” of the pandemic by shouldering both infection prevention education and the distribution of family planning methods on the ground. In Mombasa and various cities across Uganda, facility-based in-reaches and Special Family Planning Days – designed to increase access and availability of services, especially long-acting and reversible contraceptives –extended their duration, now offering services for five days instead of the usual one or two to avoid overcrowding and comply with current government guidelines to keep the population and clinical staff safe.
Pharmacies, another key actor in TCI’s strategy to maintain continuity of family planning services, were reoriented on commodity provision and stepped up to train women on self-injection of DMPA. Pharmacies also increased the number of contraceptive refills to six months, as opposed to the usual three months, so women can prevent unwanted pregnancies for twice as long without a visit back to the pharmacy.
In terms of demand generation, TCI expanded its use of WhatsApp, social media and radio to reach youth with accurate and updated information on service continuity during the pandemic. Ugandan and Kenyan coaches are also keeping stakeholders informed about evolving national service delivery guidelines. To advocate for the continued engagement of city governments with family planning as an essential service, the webinar presenters shared how TCI quickly pivoted to an online platform, facilitating virtual Program Implementation Team (PIT) meetings and Technical Working Groups, and shared their learning that virtual meetings are indeed feasible, productive and cost-effective – and can engage more participants than in-person meetings.
Recent data from the region suggests that East Africa’s concerted efforts to ensure service continuity reversed a slight dip in visits for short-term methods in the months of March, April and May.
To learn more about the strategies Kenyan and Ugandan cities are using to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic, watch the one-hour webinar.