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Our response to the COVID-19 crisis

We stay focused on the women and girls who need us most.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate lives and communities across the world, MSI Reproductive Choices' priority remains to deliver safe care to the women and girls who needs us.

Since the outbreak commenced, we have seen the impact on reproductive healthcare access and rights across the 37 countries where we work. With national lockdowns restricting movement, lack of information about what services are available, supply chain disruptions and overwhelmed health systems diverting resources to the COVID-19 response, access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) has been restricted and barriers have increased.

During times of crisis, women's reproductive health needs are often neglected, and the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing already stretched health systems to breaking point. But as the crisis continues to unfold and access to services is removed, women's need for sexual and reproductive health care - including safe abortion - does not subside. And any COVID-related delays caused by social distancing, healthcare shutdowns and travel restrictions have profound impacts on women who want and need safe sexual and reproductive health care. 

A story of resilience and adaptation

Despite the challenges facing both providers and clients throughout the crisis, the story we’ve seen is also one of resilience and adaptation. One where rapid innovation, dedication and determination have been crucial.

Across many of MSI’s country programmes, we have advocated successfully with partners to ensure that contraception, safe abortion and post-abortion care are defined by governments as ‘essential services’ and available in the basic package of services.

We have seen our providers along with others in the public and private sector work tirelessly to adapt and innovate so that services can stay open, safely. From the use of effective PPE, to social distancing with clients, leveraging of government partnerships and a shift to remote service delivery models, our programmes have worked hard to protect access.

Our programmes have rapidly adapted to ensure access can be maintained, for example, by moving reproductive health supplies as close as possible to the last mile, before the lockdown restricts transportation. Our response has been tailored and grounded in the local contexts, all in line with national government response.

Our team members continue to inspire us to do what we can to ensure reproductive rights and services for all, wherever they may be.

The impact on our services

But while our efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, aided by partnerships, has allowed us to protect services across several settings, we have still seen a considerable reduction in the number of women who have been able to reach our services.

In August 2020 we released a report sharing new data on the impact on access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), combined with insights and learnings from our frontline providers who have been doing all they can to protect access to lifesaving services and ensure that we build back better.

Our data shows that the impact of COVID-19 on women’s access to reproductive health services has not been as grave as initially expected. However, due to CODVID-19 related disruptions, 1.9 million fewer women have been served by MSI's programmes between January to June 2020. We estimate that this will lead to: 1.5 million additional unsafe abortions, 900,000 additional unintended pregnancies, and 3,100 additional maternal deaths. 

Read the report: Resilience, adaptation and action

Our call to action

With many countries expecting the worst is yet to come, we need to continue looking for innovative ways to ensure access to SRHR services. At MSI, we know that there are cost effective and simple solutions that when implemented can save lives and maintain access. We therefore continue to urge governments, donors and the global community to work together to prioritise access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services in their COVID-19 response to ensure women have timely access to essential services when needed most. 

The emergency facing us remains uncertain, and with it our ability to continue to serve some of the world’s most marginalised women with reproductive health services. Many of our programmes have and will continue to be affected by the crisis. But we are responding and adapting to the situation in partnership with others and with commitment and determination to continue to serve the people who need us and to leave no one behind.

More to read

Learn more about the impact of COVID-19 and our response

MSI group education session in DRC

Stories from the frontline

Read more about the impact of the pandemic on individual country programmes, and what our teams are doing to ensure women can still access essential services.

Stories from the frontline

Read our latest statements and press releases

In a situation that keeps evolving, so will our response and adaptation to it. Please click through to read our latest statements and press releases.

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During these difficult times, our ability to continue to serve some of the worlds most vulnerable and marginalised women is becoming increasingly uncertain. With your support, we can continue to do so.

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