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RWANDA: HDI urges adolescents to access ASRHR services

By Anne Muhiza

Development partners have established COVID-19 technical coordination mechanisms with groups focusing on health, social protection, food security and the socio-economic impact of COVID-19. UNICEF was actively involved in the first three of these groups, co-leading the group on social protection along with DFID. Under the development partner health group, which meets once a week, three sub-working groups have been established in risk communication, case management/IPC, and reproductive and sexual health.

This week was a two days conference which took place from 19th to 20th October 2021. It was a meeting of adolescents which was named “national conference of adolescents’ access to SRHR”, this conference was hosted by HDI (health development Initiative) to discuss over the theme “amplifying adolescents’ voices toward access to ASRHR (Adolescents sexual reproductive health and rights) Services”.

This event started by testing participants the COVID-19 and other registrations. They began by explaining to the participants the purpose of the meeting so that everyone in the discussion could better understand well.

It was a meeting that was attended by various categories of adolescents and others who meet them in different services, there were students, Nurse, delegation from RBC, Lawyers, delegation from WDA and REB, people from other non-governmental organizations which deals with this issue of reproductive health and rights.

Adolescents have pointed out the challenges they face which prevent them from using the services as they are, pointing out that they are sometimes affected by the service providers, because when they go for the ASRHR Services, the service providers don’t keep the secrets they gossip about it, some providers stereotype the Adolescents about the ASRHR services, also the other thing which prevents youth from accessing the ASRHR services is that some of them are unknown by many people, for the incomplete information that they receive from adults.

Many of the invitees who came to represent their institutions identified their contribution in helping the adolescents to access those services. HDI said that they have the toll-free line (3530) on which adolescents can dial for any help regarding the ASRHR services

REB said that they carry out the modules called CSE which is regarding to ASRHR to educate students about their sexual reproductive health and their rights

Despite the impressive progress of the Government of Rwanda to protect and fulfil the right to health, there are still legal provisions related to SRHR that constitute a barrier for adolescents ’access to SRHR services,

An MP (member of parliament) revealed the rights of everyone about sexual reproductive health and rights, as he also explained the laws related to that. And they said that when a country is threatened by such a problem, even the parliament is not just sitting without any help for there are even two elected officials in charge of that.

Every present institution has their contribution to that issue, they are working hand in hand to prevent unplanned pregnancies in adolescents.

The meeting was important because there been a lot to learn, and it even allowed the adolescents to talk straightly to the relevant authorities because they were around.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed weaknesses in health care systems globally, and has caused serious gaps and challenges in the provision of sexual and reproductive health information and services. Additionally, the reallocation of resources away from these services is taking a toll on the health of women and girls. This year, the UNFPA is calling to prioritize the reproductive health and rights of all people, including ease of access to information and services.

At the Nairobi Summit in 2019, Rwanda committed to reduce unmet need for family planning through improving further service delivery, access and uptake by increasing the number of health facilities, skilled healthcare providers and by expanding the available contraceptive method mix, including emergency contraceptives.

Key progress includes decreased Unmet Need for Family Planning from 19% in 2015 to 14% in 2020; and teenage pregnancy reduced from 7,3% in 2015 to 5,2% in 2020, despite the pandemic.

Rwanda is among countries that were able to maintain or restore access to essential health services, including family planning, Rwanda’s current population is approx. 11.8 million, of which around 70 per cent is youth with 27.6 per cent between the ages of 16 and 30. The total fertility rate (TFR) is 4.1 children.

Results from the 2019-2020 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS 2019-2020) show that 5 per cent of women aged 15-19 have begun childbearing and this rises rapidly with age from less than 1 per cent at the age of 15, to 15 per cent at the age of 19 adding that teenagers with no education and those in the lowest wealth quintile tend to start childbearing earlier than other teenagers.

While the UNFPA-supported Rapid Assessment on the Continuation of RMNCAH Services (2020) revealed minimal disruption to SRH services during the pandemic, there remains a need for continued advocacy and awareness raising to ensure that SRH remains central to essential health services during the Covid-19 pandemic and any other crisis.

UNICEF is supporting the Government of Rwanda to mitigate the secondary effects of COVID-19 on children and families, including in remote learning opportunities for children and providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for community health workers. With schools set to re-open soon, UNICEF is supporting the Government to prepare schools for students’ return by constructing handwashing facilities in primary and boarding schools. However, UNICEF leads the sub-group on risk communication and co-leads the case management/IPC group along with WHO. These mechanisms keep development partners informed on COVID-19 response, collect and share feedback for the Government, and coordinate the development partner response to COVID-19.

Results from the 2019-2020 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS 2019-2020) show that 5 per cent of women aged 15-19 have begun childbearing,etc.
One of the participants
A member of parliament

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