DKT Liberia, the organization at the vanguard of providing Liberians with access to Sexual and Reproduction Health options, at a recent media parley shared the various innovative steps being taken by the organization to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the access to Family Planning. According to the Country Manager, Antonio Cazares Turcott, “The COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound impact on access to Family Planning products and services all around the world. Not only did the supply chain of Family Planning products crash from production to international shipment, but also the availability of healthcare providers has been disrupted.” Despite this scenario, he explained that the Liberians’ Family Planning needs are not on hold during this pandemic. As such he reiterated the commitment of DKT Liberia to its principle of ensuring access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Right (SRHR) under any circumstances by putting in place innovative actions to mitigate COVID-19 impact on access to Family Planning.
Mr. Turcott stated that, as part of their innovative quick response to the pandemic, “DKT launched an SOS hotline for pregnant women and women who need assistance and identifying maternal health or Family Planning service providers. We rolled out a phone survey to identify healthcare providers willing to remain open and offered special promotions for Family Planning coupled with a phone survey reaching out to DKT potential clients previously recruited in communities.” He added that plans were in top gear to send 100,000 interactive SMS messages to educate and offer Family Planning products and services. This he said was at the backdrop of the promotion of free Lydia Oral Contraceptive Pills (OCP) doorstep delivery in Montserrado and the partnership with Street Child Liberia and Planned Parenthood Liberia in the distribution of Family Planning products.
When COVID-19 cases were on the rise, the Family Health Division (FHD) set off the alarm bell by sharing some cases where pregnant women in labor could not reach clinics on time for the birth. As a response, DKT partnered with FHD to launch the SOS hotline through DKT’s Lydia Contact Center with a short code 5585 on Orange and MTN Lone Star Liberia, networks. Mr.Turcott added that, “the hotline caters to maternal health emergencies as well as for non-urgent cases seeking Family Planning services and information by referring them to public and private clinics and providing tele-counseling with FHD psychosocial officers.”
To further demonstrate the commitment of the organization to innovation, Antonio, explained that, “DKT phone survey identified 407 private clinics and pharmacies and 2,000 potential clients to connect to one another for Family Planning products and services through phone interventions.” The key highpoints of the survey include, 94% of the service providers responded that they would remain open, and 63% were willing to offer a special promotion for Family Planning products. As such to facilitate these insights, DKT Liberia, committed to providing a subsidy on all Family Planning products and services. In the same survey, 96% of the potential clients shared the disruption in their daily activities which included the inability to go to the market or to access health facilities because of the lockdown. He stated that through the phone intervention, potential clients will be connected to a nearby provider in their community as identified in the phone survey and be provided with the subsidized products and services.
The innovative interventions to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on SRHR, was equally taken to the field. DKT Liberia, promoted free OCP doorstep delivery to prevent unwanted pregnancies by giving six cycles per woman. According to Antonio, seven communities in Montserrado were visited, and over 9,000 OCPs were distributed. He added that. “recently, we joined Street Child Liberia’s efforts to distribute 30,000 OCP cycles. We also partnered with Planned Parenthood Liberia to secure family planning products for two of their clinics during this health emergency for women who cannot afford a private service.”
Mr. Turcott concluded that “despite the uncertain future occasioned by the pandemic, DKT Liberia’s responsibility remains unwavering as the organization will do everything in our power to ensure that Family Planning options are accessible to all women and men in Liberia to decide when to have a child. Throughout COVID-19 and beyond, we are committed to serving Liberians.”
DKT Liberia also expressed gratitude for the support from all its donors especially the Swedish Embassy in Liberia and CIFF UK which has enabled them to keep increasing access to SRHR, to make sure that every Liberian child is wanted.