When Vientiane entered into lockdown due to Covid-19-19, Dr Ya Phoumalino asked himself: “how can I be one of the bravest citizens? To answer this question, I had to think of what people would continue to need even during Covid-19 and lockdown. They need access to quality services, especially adolescents and young girls.” Dr. Ya Phoumalino is a health provider and Director of Vientiane Youth Centre (VYC) where UNFPA is providing support to promote sexual reproductive health and rights of adolescent and young people in Laos.
When Covid-19 started spreading, our services were quickly overwhelmed by calls and messages from adolescents, through the hotlines and facebook messages with a lot of questions on sexual and reproductive health, as well as Covid-19 related information. With my team, we realized how important our services were, to those hundred thousand youth in Vientiane.
The team agreed quickly that we wanted to continue service provision, to come everyday and ensure no young person is left behind. All the worries and fears we had at the beginning of this Covid-19 wave disappeared.
“I am very proud of my team. I could only encourage them and show gratitude everyday. They travel long distances to come to work. Only engaged people risk their lives for others. We are delighted to be doing it for adolescents, especially girls. The partnership with UNFPA is strategic, financial and technical, it allows us to provide SRH services and information at all times including during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as ensuring the safety of our team by providing protective equipment and advises ”
UNFPA support included financial assistance to the AYFS clinic (VYC) and IEC material, Integrating AYFS into the RMNCAH policy, upskilling Health service providers, conducting mobile outreach at communities, delivering Sexual Reproductive Health services to garment factory workers, ensuring confidential youth counselling and providing hotline services including SRH and Mental health and psychosocial services.
The availability of sexual reproductive health information and services is key to achieving the quality of health services, and to respond to the need of adolescents and young people’s health development in Laos, against maternal mortality and end of unmet need in Laos.
In Laos more than half of the population is below 25 years of age (Census 2015). Child marriage is common, especially among girls. Currently 1 in 4 adolescent girls aged 15-19 is married. Adolescent birth rate is one of the highest in the region with 83 births per 1,000 adolescent girls (aged 15-19). Dropout of school rate of girls aged 15-17 was 41.8%. Therefore, maintaining adolescent and youth friendly services available, reachable and adaptable to youth and adolescents is very crucial to respond to their needs in times of crisis.
During lockdown, there was a 28% increase of calls through the VYC hotline. Over 50,000 adolescents and young people accessed SRH information and Covid-1919 prevention messaging in April 2021. More than 16,300 adolescents and young people have access to SRH clinics served by VYC from January to April 2021. VYC with support by UNFPA continues to strengthen responsive SRH and psychosocial support through online counselling and tele-medicine
UNFPA collaborates with the Lao government to address challenges threatening the wellbeing of adolescents and youth. Ensuring adolescents access to quality SRH services without stigma or discrimination is one of the pillar of the SDGs and a strong commitment of the Lao PDR to ICPD25.
UNFPA helps ensure the continuity of services in the areas of sexual reproductive health, gender equality and youth development in times of peace as well in the context of pandemics and crises through mobilizing technical and financial support and building partnerships.
Source: Lao News Agency