ISLAMABAD - A reproductive health helpline was launched on Wednesday to provide support and counselling the women on their reproductive health issues.

The Population Council in a statement said the Helpline was launched in collaboration with the Association for Mothers and New­borns (AMAN) and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (SOGP), with financial support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Dr. Azra Ahsan, President AMAN, in a media briefing said, “The Help­line will host a pool of health ex­perts available through phone calls to provide medical assis­tance to women callers on family planning, maternal health, essen­tial newborn care and reproduc­tive health issues. Doctors will also provide medical advice on how pregnant women can keep them­selves safe against the Covid-19; gender-based violence; proper nu­trition; contraception and hygiene practices.”

She said AMAN with support of SOGP conducted an extensive train­ing of specialized obs. and gynae­cologist doctors and equipped them with the necessary knowledge to assist the callers on various repro­ductive health issues. The doctors will be available daily to assist the callers.

People can call the Helpline from anywhere in Pakistan and receive easy and quick access to basic med­ical care from their homes. Helpline can be dialled at 021- 35205383 and will be available Monday to Sat­urday, from 9am to 5pm.

Speaking to the journalists, Dr. Ali Mir, Senior Programs Director, Population Council, said, “for most women in reproductive ages, fam­ily planning is critical than other health care. Emergency response to Covid-19 outbreak means that resources for essential maternal, newborn health, gender, reproduc­tive health services are diverted to deal with the outbreak. The Help­line is an important development to ensure that accurate and time­ly information reach women across the country to avoid delay or dis­ruption in maternal and reproduc­tive health services due to the virus outbreak.”

Briefing the media, Samia Ali Shah, Project Director Population Council, presented some projec­tions made by UNFPA on impact of Covid-19 on family planning, repro­ductive health and gender-based violence in Pakistan. The projec­tions suggest that significant in­creases in maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths would occur if health service use declines from the current usage levels. “Repro­ductive health and rights of mar­ried couples in Pakistan are like­ly to get sidelined during Covid-19. Maternal health services decline by up to 20%, would resulting in over 200,000 additional births, over 2000 maternal deaths and about 58,000 still births in next three months. Similarly, a decline in women protections services puts 1.6 million additional women at the increased risk of domestic violence during the lockdown in Pakistan.”

Government needs to act quick­ly to safeguard essential reproduc­tive including family planning, ma­ternal, and newborn health services remain available as COVID-19 pro­gresses.