In the past several weeks, as we have confronted the enormity of the COVID-19 pandemic, our lives and work have fundamentally changed. Half of the world’s population now lives under stay-at-home orders, which means that most people reading this are at home as well, separated from their jobs or trying to learn new ways to work, while caring for family members or trying to stay connected to friends and family far away.
At the same time, our shared mission to increase access to family planning for women and girls has not changed. Indeed, it has become even more urgent: for most women, family planning is critical, basic health care. As health systems shift to prevent and treat people with COVID-19, and as travel bans are enforced, women and adolescent girls may be prevented from traveling to get counseling or contraception. We know that unplanned pregnancy and sexual violence increases during a crisis. Family Planning 2020 partners are working to ensure the contraception remains accessible, even under isolation.
New information and guidance on delivering family planning care is becoming available every day, and it can be a little overwhelming to keep track of all the resources available. To help partners find all of this information in one place, and to be able to share with one another the innovations and tools you are using, FP2020 has created a platform to ensure key information from global experts is getting into the hands of the decision makers and program implementers who need it. Likewise, we will be sharing experiences of our partners working at the country level and the lessons they are learning, including how the virus is having an impact on their work and the strategies they are using to continue service delivery.
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In addition, we will shift from a monthly newsletter to a weekly update, in order to keep you informed of the latest guidance, webinars, articles or statements that are coming out every day. We hope that this will help keep you informed and connected during this challenging time.
Last week the FP2020 Reference Group gathered for our biannual meeting. We had the opportunity to hear from several ministries of health, as well as from leaders of implementing organizations, about conditions in their countries under COVID-19. They are reporting service disruptions as health workers were redirected to help stop the pandemic and commodity disruptions as supply chains were cut. Members urged us to slow our process of transitioning to the next iteration of the FP2020 partnership as partners grapple with the current challenge. We recognize that it is unrealistic for partners to make new commitments in the near future when it will be months before we understand the full impact the pandemic has had on family planning services. We will continue to move forward on the 2021-2030 partnership design, informed by the input so many of you have given over the past year, and will launch processes for the future when the time is right.
In a call led by the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition last week, Director John Skibiak observed that the strength of our movement was our commitment to collaboration and creative solutions. “We are stronger together,” he said, noting that by sharing what we know and working together, we will be able to weather this storm. I have been moved by our community these past weeks, and how we come together, even from our own homes, with practical solutions and a passion for ensuring that women and girls continue to get the health care they need.
Our partnership will see us through.