UNFPA scales up reproductive health services amid cholera outbreak
Published On February 20, 2024 » 1381 Views» By Times Reporter » Features
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ZAMBIA has continued on its path of recovery from the cholera outbreak that hit various parts of the country since October, 2023, with a remarkable drop in new cases and a significant number of patients being discharged countrywide, as per the daily updates by the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI).
The positive trend can be attributed to concerted efforts from various stakeholders that include the United Nations (UN) system in the country, the corporate world and other institutions that continue to support the Government in its response to this public health emergency.
As is usually the case, the rapid escalation of cholera cases or any other outbreak puts a strain on local health care provision for other essential services such as provision of and access to sexual and reproductive health services.
There is a diversion of resources from routine services to respond to the cholera response activities while regular health services are stretched.
However, one of Zambia’s all-weather friends rolled up sleeves in ensuring that no one is left behind in the provision and access to sexual and reproductive health services during the cholera outbreak.
As per its mission and mandate to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Zambia continues to leave no stone unturned in bridging the gap in access to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning commodities by the most vulnerable in society.
This author had an exclusive interview with UNFPA country representative Seth Broekman in Lusaka recently.
He said, “Cholera outbreaks highlight the importance of comprehensive healthcare services, including sexual and reproductive health services, as part of emergency preparedness and response efforts. Integrating sexual and reproductive health services into cholera response programs can help address the unique needs of affected populations and mitigate the long-term impact of the outbreak on reproductive health outcomes.”
In highlighting UNFPA’s approach to service provision during emergency situations, Mr Broekman further highlighted: “We have two building blocks that need to be addressed, one is on the supply side, that is to ensure that services are made available to women and young people, such as adolescent friendly health services in health facilities, and also ensure that skills and knowledge are made available.
“Then the other side is the uptake by women and young people themselves, and that is quite proven in many areas. Young people need to be supported by the entire network around them to make a healthy and safe transition to adulthood.”
He said during the cholera outbreak, UNFPA has been working with the Government, through the Ministry of Health (MoH) to ensure maternal and newborn health services are not interrupted by the cholera response efforts.
“Together with the Ministry of Health, UNFPA has facilitated the engagement and deployment of 15 midwives to ensure that there is continuation of maternal and newborn health services even in the cholera treatment centres.”
“During emergency responses, such as the case with cholera, UNFPA adjusts its programmes throughout the country as required. This includes an enhanced focus on sexual and reproductive health, including high quality family planning and HIV prevention services, and prevention of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), to ensure continuity of these essential services,” he said.
Mr Broekman further stressed that, “using data from different sources, we are able to monitor and analyze this information on service needs to inform current and future preparedness and response to cholera. We for instance know the number of women of reproductive age, young girls, young boys, men etc in the affected districts in Zambia. We can estimate the number of pregnant women, the number of estimated pregnancies and therefore the needs coming from those statistics. This information needs to be used to ensure that the services are available.”
The UNFPA Representative lauded the Government for ensuring coordination of cholera response efforts among all stakeholders, including waste management, water supply and health among others, as the cholera outbreak affected all sectors of the country.
“Cholera requires a multi-sectoral response, and I would really emphasise that for any outbreak, not only cholera but any potential public health emergency, we need to ensure that climate-resilient health and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) strategies are available and implemented.
“We need to make sure that there is early detection and surveillance, that we have resilient health systems in place so that in the event of an emergency outbreak , we have enough qualified midwives in facilities, we have PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) available, we have essential health commodities available and well distributed across the country,” he said.
“While the current cholera outbreak is mainly urban centred, we also have cases in places that are rural in nature. As such, the role of Community Health Workers is critical. In this case, UNFPA is supporting the enhancement of risk communication messaging through 400 youth mentors in target Provinces, to amplify that essential services continue to be provided even during the cholera outbreak.”
Until next week, send your comments to moseschimfwembe@gmail.com.

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