Togo: Ensuring access to family planning services even during the pandemic
Despite the COVID-19 crisis, medical professionals can access training courses and thus help to improve health care for young women, pregnant women and mothers.
In Togo, access to health care for pregnant women and mothers is often inadequate. There is a shortage of well-trained health professionals, in particular. Kanlanfai Elyse Gnibante Tebin is a midwife, which means she is one of the health professionals so urgently needed. When she heard about the training on offer, she didn’t hesitate for a second. ‘I could not miss this opportunity to improve my skills to better serve my community,’ she says. She then took part in a six-month training course at the school of midwifery in the Kara region of Togo.
Many women in Togo die during pregnancy or labour as a result of poor health care. There is a shortage of health services such as antenatal care, midwives and contraceptive advice. In addition, many women facing unwanted pregnancy resort to clandestine abortions – often with devastating consequences. The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the situation. Lockdown restrictions made it even more difficult to access basic treatment and important information. ‘It is imperative that we continue to ensure women have access to family planning services and support during pregnancy and when giving birth,’ says Gnibante Tebin.
On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is implementing a project to strengthen the health care system in the Kara region of northern Togo. GIZ is collaborating with 80 health centres to provide training for medical professionals on topics such as infections, maternal health and family planning. To ensure that the training could continue during the COVID-19 pandemic, the course sizes were reduced, and the number of sessions increased. In the first half of 2021 alone, approx. 130 nurses, doctors and midwives took part in the training.
The project also focuses on working with over 4,000 trained change agents – young mothers and fathers, and community leaders, who pass on their family planning knowledge to members of their community. And that is important because it is not just about women’s physical health. ‘The right to make their own family planning choices is key to women’s empowerment,’ says Gnibante Tebin.