More interest by women in family planning is the surprising result of Covid-19 for CHASE Africa, as the charity reports that women are increasingly keen on the  more private, personal, door-to-door family planning services necessitated by the pandemic.

When Covid-19 restrictions prevented CHASE Africa and its partners hosting large gatherings at community day clinics, we continued private, door-to-door visits by Community Health Workers, and Nurses known as ‘backpack nurses’. This resulted in an increased and unexpected level of interest from local women – who appreciated the privacy and personal nature of the ‘backpack nurse’ service.

“The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic meant large mobile community day-clinics were no longer possible,” said Henry Pomeroy, Director of CHASE Africa.

“This left all the project effort focused on the provision of family planning information and services via door-to-door visits, with high levels of success. This has demonstrated that the change in attitude towards the use of family planning brought about by the provision of behaviour change communication is possibly more effective on a door-to-door basis than it is when provided at large community events.”

CHASE Africa had originally teamed up with local partner, Community Health Volunteers, to offer healthcare screening and family planning advice via large mobile day clinics, as well as the ‘backpack nurses’, to remote communities in western Kenya, a project funded with aid from the British people via the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), through the Small Charities Challenge Fund.

Because day clinics were on hold due to government restrictions to stop the spread of Covid-19, more healthcare workers and community health volunteers were recruited and trained to become frontline workers and provide family planning information and services going door-to-door.

The protection of healthcare workers with PPE, and understanding how to use it, also became a necessity – with Community Health Workers also helping people understand how to protect themselves from Covid-19 infection and spread.

The more personal service necessitated by the pandemic has meant healthcare workers were able to better discuss the benefits of using family planning with women and their families. In doing so, they have helped dispel misinformation, misunderstandings and cultural barriers to using family planning.

Community Health Workers were also trained to advise families on domestic violence and abuse during the lockdown period, providing an important link between locked-down families and the outside world.

“As the number of coronavirus cases rose across the country, a national lockdown was introduced and everyone had to stay at home,” said Pomeroy.

“Community Health Workers received refresher training on child and vulnerable adult protection again during monthly meetings to help them continue safeguarding children and vulnerable adults during the pandemic. Topics covered during these meetings included physical abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, self-neglect, financial and material abuse and discriminatory abuse.”

In 2020, the number of family planning services provided was 52% above the expected level, showing just how important the door-to-door services have been. Some 8,027 women accessed family planning services through the project by the end of December 2020. Of these, 3,972 were accessing family planning for the first time.

The project was funded with aid from the British people via the FCDO, through the Small Charities Challenge Fund.

Day clinics are expected to resume in 2021, and the ‘backpack nurse’ service will also continue in communities due to its popularity.