Malawi on Monday hosted regional meeting in the capital city Lilongwe on Sexual Reproductive Health rights for joint United Nations Population funds (UNFPA) and UNited Nations Aids Agegency(UNAIDS)
UNAIDS and UNFPA is funding seven countries and these are Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe in the Southern in order to address barriers and integrating SRHR AND HIV/AIDS.
Technocrats discussed ways how to strength health systems so as to effectively and efficiently increase access to and use of critical HIV and SRHR services.
Speaking during the function, Minister of Health Dr Peter Kampalume commended succesful implementation of the regional project.
“I feel highly honoured this evening to be a Guest Speaker here today to officially open the 5th Regional Steering Committee meeting here in Malawi. It makes all of us feel proud as we get the realities of providing sexual and reproductive health and HIV services using the evidence generated by this important project that has been implemented as a pilot phase in the seven countries that are present here today.” said Kampalume.
Kampalume said it was encouraging that in all these countries there are lessons that have been learned and good practices which will further influence the scaling up of SRHR & HIV integration to the other districts and zones.
“Just to give a few highlights. It has been reported that that evidence from the pilot health facilities is showing increases in the variety of services provided and taken up by clients. Equally, the provision of SRH-HIV integrated is leading to the provision of more efficient services than the hitherto standalone services both to clients and health care providers.” Said Kampalume.
The Minister said Malawi puts great emphasis on all sectors involved in addressing issues of sexual and reproductive health & HIV and as a nation Malawi has also very active civil society that is helping government to address such issues.
In this regard, the Minister commended Family Planning Association of Malawi, a Member Association of the IPPF.
“Through our joint collaboration, significant gains have been made in the areas of adolescents and young people sexual and reproductive health and rights, advocacy for improved sexual and reproductive health, HIV and AIDS programmes for young people living with HIV, marginalized groups, prevention of unsafe abortions through community engagement and education, and more importantly expansion of access to services through its youth friendly health facilities, mobile clinics, community based distribution of contraceptives, peer education and involvement of traditional chiefs and counselors.” Said Kampalume.
Kampalume also thanked UNFPA and UNAIDS, both Malawi and their East and Southern African Regional Offices and their leadership for the technical support for programme implementation, monitoring and evaluation during the years this pilot project has been running.
“This support has been greatly instrumental in enabling the country achieve the results expected from the project. It is also very important to specially thank the European Union, Sweden’s SIDA and Norway for providing the financial resources for this pilot phase. We are very grateful as a country for your financial support that has improved access to quality integrated SRH and HIV services to Malawians and the other benefitting countries and looking forward to further support from you to enable us sustain the gains of this pilot phase.” Said Kampalume.
The minister said the legacy set by the pilot phase, is a foundation on the work on sexual and reproductive health and HIV integration that will be further built upon, expanded and sustained.
“In-deed, as a government, we are committed to sustain this project and expand it to additional districts in the country guided by the newly approved Malawi national SRH-HIV integration strategy. In deed through this new strategy and other related SRH and HIV strategies, we hope to make steady progress in Malawi health indicators as we move towards the new sustainable development goals.”
UNFPA official in her opening speech Violet Kakyomya, welcomed the delegates while commending Governments for their effort which has led into successful implementation of the project.
“On behalf of the UNFPA regional director for East and Southern Africa, please allow me to welcome you all delegates to Malawi and to the fifth and final regional project steering committee meeting of the UNAIDS/UNFPA joint initiative on linking SRHR and HIV in Southern Africa.
It has been almost five years since we started our journey in exploring how best we could support countries to address barriers to linking/integrating SRHR AND HIV/AIDS.” Said Kakyomya.
Kakyomya said that through strengthening of health systems effectively and efficiently increase access to and use of critical HIV and SRHR services.
Kakyomya said that is in recognition of the intersection between HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), including maternal health as most HIV infections are sexually transmitted or are associated with pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.
“We have made tremendous achievements through country led efforts, some of which include:
integration has been adopted in your respective countries’ health and development plans, policies and strategies;
the establishment of integrated management and supervision arrangements at different levels of the health system;
piloting of innovative service models that suggest improved service uptake and that there may be efficiencies to make;
successful partnerships with civil society in community engagement and outreach to population left behind,” Said Kakyomya.
“We can confidently say that our initiative has contributed to the global learning by contributing to developing indicators for integration as well as regional strengthening collaboration with SADC to develop regional minimum standards on SRH-HIV integration.
I congratulate all you all for these very important achievements.
This is a great partnerships with strong leadership from your respective Governments through the Ministries of Health; excellent collaboration between UN agencies, with UNAIDS directly, but also our H4+ agencies, including WHO that are participating in this meeting. Our civil society partners have also been our strong allies. We acknowledge the presence of IPPF and its member associations at this meeting.
It is extremely important that the gains accrued over the years of its implementation are scaled up. It is gratifying to note that work on national scale-up has been initiated in Botswana and Swaziland, while others including Malawi, Zimbabwe, Namibia are going for district level scale up. Zambia and Lesotho are strengthening their pilot sites.
We have also seen strong political buy-in for linking and integrating services; multi-sectoral commitment and coordination; and enough ‘space’ for systems, communities and individuals to learn new approaches and new modalities of health service provision. These are all critical enablers.
In the post-MDG era in which we are embracing the new Sustainable Development Goals, Integration will become even more central to deliver on these interdependent and inclusive goals.
It is our collective responsibility to ensure the results and gains from this project are sustained and that integration is institutionalized as a core component of countries’ health sector policies and strategies and service delivery.
Let me conclude by offering our sincere appreciation to our international cooperation partners, the EU and the Governments of Sweden and Norway whose support has been key to the achievement of these results. We count on your continued support for the next phase of this initiative. Let us all work together to contribute to our goals of ending AIDS and ensure universal access to SRHR by 2030.”Said Kakyomya.
In Malawi UNFP has been funding Safeguard Young People Project, a Regional Programme implemented in those seven countries in Southern Africa with highest rates of HIV.
In Malawi, the programme is implemented in six districts: Nkhatabay, Dedza, Mchinji, Mangochi, Chiradzulu, and Chikwawa.
It was designed to align with national priorities as articulated in the various youth, health, education and gender related policies and strategies that underscore the urgent need to empower young people and reduce HIV and other STIs, early and unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, early marriages, gender based violence and harmful traditional practices and promote gender equity and protective sexual behaviours.
SYP in Malawi is implemented by UNFPA with partners Ministry of Youth, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Gender, Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM), Malawi Girl Guides Association (MAGGA), Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO) and recently Pakachere Institute of Health and Development Communication.
Key achievements of the project is that in partnership with MoH, SYP supported the evaluation of Youth Friendly Health Services (YFHS) 2. 120 service providers were trained in youth friendly health services (YFHS) and an increase in young people’s uptake of services is observed in the six focus districts. During the first quarter of 2015, 18,648 female and 8,018 male young people have accessed YFHS. The programme is collaborating with Ministry of Health (MoH) to include more specific YFHS indicators in the HMIS which will improve on disaggregated data collection in terms of age specificity and types of YFHS the young people are accessing.
SYP has also supported the procurement and distribution of recreation materials and refurbishment of youth friendly health services in the six districts. These materials attract young people to patronise the centres and access SRH services. For adolescent girls, access to SRH services assist them to stay in school and realise their right to education.
Throughout the 2014 CONDOMIZE Campaigns, 335,000 condoms were distributed (295,800 male condoms & 39,200 female condoms) and 41,131 young people were exposed to CONDOMIZE Campaign messages that demystify condom use, increases dual protection against HIV/STIs and unintended pregnancy among young people, and encourage other health seeking behaviours such as knowing one’s HIV status. Furthermore, youth branding of 385,800 “Silver Touch” condoms (young people’s chosen name and flavour) and CONDOMIZE brand covers were distributed. HIV Testing and Counselling services are offered during these campaigns whereby the combination of demand creation for services through the social and behaviour change communication (SBCC) messages and the supply of services in the form of condom distribution and HTC are provided simultaneously.