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Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nepal, reports have indicated that the utilization of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services, including institutional deliveries and uptake of family planning, are beginning to decline due to restricted mobility. This has impacted both pregnant women’s access to essential services and the ability of service providers to provide services efficiently. It has also disrupted the supply chain for essential SRH commodities.

Access to safe, voluntary family planning is a human right. Family planning is central to gender equality and women’s empowerment, and it is a key factor in reducing poverty. The COVID-19 pandemic has made matters worse. The Family Welfare Division of the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) reported a significant decrease in the availability of services providing cesarean sections (67% to 41%) and safe abortion (72% to 60%), among other services, compared to before lockdown. Similarly, there has been a reduction in antenatal and postnatal care, safe abortion services and family planning services in the current COVID-19 context. With a large number of returning migrants, mostly young men, there is a heightened risk of unintended pregnancies if family planning services are not available, as well as a risk of unsafe abortions leading to maternal deaths.

The 7th National Family Planning Day provides an opportunity to highlight the importance of family planning. Working together with development partners UNFPA has been supporting MoHP, provincial and local governments to promote family planning by: ensuring a steady, reliable supply of quality contraceptives; strengthening the national health system; advocating for policies supportive of family planning; and gathering data to support this work. UNFPA also provides technical support to the Government of Nepal to develop evidence and policies that help increase access to family planning.

The Ministry of Health made a commitment to FP2020 in March 2015, just before the massive earthquake of 25 April 2015. The federal government and some provincial governments committed to identify and address barriers to family planning, broaden the range of available contraceptives and improve the method mix, as well as increase the budget for family planning on a yearly basis by 7%. Prior to signing off on the FP2020 commitment, the Ministry of Health had endorsed a five-year Costed Implementation Plan for Family Planning (2015-2020), which outlined the resources required for scaling up family planning programmes and the commodity needs.

Despite progress over the past 10 years in Nepal, 24% of married women still have an unmet need for family planning. Only 15% of married women or girls aged 15-19 use a modern form of contraception. In Nepal, 17% of adolescent women age 15-19 are already mothers or pregnant with their first child. Women in rural areas have an average of 2.9 children, compared to 2.0 children among women in urban areas. Women with no education have 1.5 more children than women who have graduated from high school. One in four married women in Nepal have an unmet need for family planning: 8% want to delay childbearing, while 16% want to stop childbearing.

The Family Planning Costed Implemented Plan (2015–2020) was developed under the aegis of Family Welfare Division/MoHP in 2015. The plan was instrumental in drawing Nepal’s commitment to FP2020 and making an investment case for the Family Planning program in Nepal. Now in the light of federalism, Nepal’s health sector is experiencing significant changes due to the reforms, which are a necessary response to federalism and devolution. These necessary changes provide opportunities particularly to sub-national governments, also a high time for securing sustainable financing in family planning services, and thus this is the right timing to initiate dialogues at all tiers of the government, to ensure sustainable financing in family planning services and commodities and to ensure relevant plans and strategies are aligned with the 2030 agenda for development.

यस वर्षको राष्ट्रिय परिवार योजना दिवसको नारा 'कोभिड-१९ को अवस्था, गुणस्तरीय परिवार योजना सेवाको निरन्तरता' रहेको छ ।