UNFPA and Ministry of Health not letting our guards down against COVID-19 by investing on a strong health response

6 November 2020
UNFPA and Ministry of Health not letting our guards down against COVID-19 by investing on a strong health response

Luang Prabang, Lao PDR, 2020 – Under the Multi-Partners Trust Fund (MPTF), UNFPA continues to support the Ministry of Health to safeguard essential Sexual Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, and Adolescent Health (SRMNCAH) services in the COVID context through training of health staff and handing over essential equipment and materials to protect providers and support the response to COVID-19. 

Succeeding the first phase where training guidelines were developed and approved for an integrated package to ensure the continuity of services during COVID-19, the second phase has been launched consisting of the Job Aid and the training guide implementation by organizing two trainings (20-23 October and 3-6 November) for a total of 40 health service providers from Luang Prabang, Phoukhoun and Phonthong district hospitals and health centers in Luang Prabang province. 
Following this capacity building, health service providers will be able to start the trial of using different modalities to maintain essential RMNCAH services during COVID-19 situation, for example tele-health and outreach services.

The MPTF is guaranteed to countries for the development effectiveness in addressing multifaceted issues—such as humanitarian crises and engages in collaborative efforts on pandemics. In Lao PDR, its support to the government, especially the Ministry of Health consists of establishing health mechanisms to address the COVID-19 barriers that women, adolescents and couples face while seeking  access to essential SRMNCAH Services. 
Dr Bountiem Siphana, Deputy Director of Luang Prabang Provincial Health department said “It is clear that this is a much needed strategy to help us ensure that our patients can still access essential care even when there are situations that can limit travel among other things. I hope that you [participants] are attentive and learn about what can be done so that you can implement in your areas.” in his opening speech of the first training.

UNFPA is supporting the Ministry of Health to not guard down against COVID-19, by continuing to strengthen health systems. This step consists of the concretization of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) commitments to ensure qualified, well trained and available task force is providing essential services without interruptions in all contexts to everyone leaving no one behind. Well trained health workers play a vital role to ensure access to sexual and reproductive health services including access to contraception and counseling, pregnancy monitoring, maternal, newborn and postnatal care. As an example, well trained and equipped health work can help avoid 87% of maternal health complications and stabilize a patient's state if able to intervene in a health structure within 02 hours.

Dr. Niphone Simphaly, Deputy Director of Luang Prabang Provincial Health Department said "the percentage of mothers visiting to receive antenatal care remains as low as 65.4% to date, and to reach the target of 85% as planned may not be possible this year due to COVID-19. Due to that more deaths of mothers are very likely. Therefore, I would like to urge all of you to join efforts to make maternal health services more accessible in possible different ways in order to prevent that undesired impact" in his opening remarks of the second training. 
As a result of these two trainings, an action plan by the district was developed for the trial of essential RMNCAH Services during COVID-19 according to the Job Aid. 

On the last day of the second training, essential materials and equipment were handed over to the provincial health team, led by Mr Victor Valdivieso, Deputy Representative of UNFPA, witnessed by Dr Phonepaseuth Ounaphom, Director of Department of Hygiene and Health Promotion, MOH. 

The equipment valued at 75,000 USD were handed over include:1327 boxes of 100 pieces containing of Gloves; 40,000 Surgical Masks, 1150 apron, 2480 hand gel bottles, 1200 L of medical Alcohol and 2100 reusable masks; and other equipment such as speakers sets,and mobile phones for use in telemedicine. 
These will be distributed to Midwives and health providers at the OBGY unit (ANC, PNC, breastfeeding and Youth Friendly Service) within 3 districts (Khoun, Phonethong and Luangprabang districts) in Luangprabang. The district serves a total population of 467,520. Based on this initiative the direct beneficiaries are: 1,260 Healthcare workers; 20 teachers from Luangprabang College of Health Sciences; 118,955 women of reproductive age; 46,752 young people; and 9,950 newborns.

For more information please contact:
Ms. Siriphone Sakulku, SRH Programme Coordinator UNFPA Lao PDR

UNFPA, the UN's sexual and reproductive health agency, works in over 150 countries including Lao PDR, to achieve zero maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning and zero gender-based