You are here

Nashwa Mohamed opens her notebook in front of her, picks up her phone and starts going over her list and dialing.

An outreach worker at the Ahalina Family Planning Unit on the outskirts of Cairo, Nashwa prepared a list of women who have discontinued receiving their contraception since the beginning of the COVID-19 spread around the country.

“You haven’t been coming and I know it is out of your hands because of the current circumstances,” she says to a woman on the other end of the line, “I am calling you to make things easier for you.”

Service providers at the Ahalina Family Planning Unit have been working to ensure that the pandemic does not deter the provision of family planning services.

Mohamed explains that they offer long-term alternatives for women on contraception, who do not wish to visit the family planning unit as regularly under the current circumstances imposed upon by the pandemic.

“We either provide two packs of pills instead of one … or we provide contraceptive implants which can last up to three years, or IUDs which can last up to 10-12 years,” she says.

For Doaa Ramadan, it was important for her to get her regular checkup at the family planning unit despite worries over COVID-19.

“Even if I am worried about the coronavirus, what if my [IUD] causes me any complications that are worse than the virus,” Ramadan says. “I have to come and get checked out … I can also get answers to questions I have.”

Still, Ramadan makes sure she takes the necessary precautions for her visit. She puts on a facemask and maintains her distance from the rest of those present.

“Everyone here is wearing a facemask, the [service providers] wash their hands and the nurses make sure everyone is maintaining a distance between one another,” Ramadan says.

As the women sit in the waiting room, Mohamed and other outreach workers take turns giving seminars every 30 minutes in the waiting area on different topics related to reproductive health.

“We are trained on different topics,” Mohamed says, “all of which are related to women, because they are the main pillar of the household.”

Mohamed explains that family planning is at the top of the agenda, from which she tackles other reproductive health issues such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), breastfeeding and contraception.

As part of the EU Support to Egypt’s National Population Strategy, UNFPA and the European Union aim at increasing the use of voluntary, rights-based family planning. That includes procuring family planning commodities, educating young people and people of reproductive age on family planning, as well as building the capacity of service providers, ranging from physicians to nurses to outreach workers.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the project adopted new measures and adjusted ongoing programs to respond to the pandemic and ensure the continuity of family planning services in Egypt.

Dr. Jihane Edward, head of the Family Planning Department at al-Salam city, said that the pandemic prompted her to gather her team to devise a response plan, in order to overcome COVID-19 as a challenge.

The team, she says, consists of physicians, nurses, outreach workers and service providers at clinics and Women Health Clubs.

Edward highlights the importance of family planning, as a national goal.

“We encourage family planning so that every member [of the community] knows their value and their role,” she says.

Their goal during the pandemic, she says, was to protect women during this time from unwanted pregnancies.

For Mohamed, she believes she has an important role to play, to complement the nurses and physicians. She crosses one name off her list as she hangs up the phone.

“I will see you tomorrow, then,” she says.


*The Ahalina family planning unit was featured on UNFPA's global website. Read it here.