Safe Sex Back after Unsafe Waters
Following the aftermath of cyclone Freddy which made landfall on March 13, affecting 15 districts in the southern region, 23-year-old Caroline Chikho from Blantyre's Ndirande township was not spared, adding her to the list of thousands of people, whose sexual reproductive rights were infringed due to the natural disaster.
The floods, mudslides occasioned by the storm destroyed her house to the ground, sweeping away all her items, an act which rendered her, her two children and husband destitute, just like that.
Statistics indicate that at least 87 health facilities were damaged by the natural disaster in the Southern Region alone, a development calling for immediate interventions.
"I lost everything in the blink of an eye," she recalls her ordeal and how she and her family joined hundreds of others at Matope evacuation centre in Blantyre's township of Ndirande.
The climate crisis which destroyed various infrastructure such as homes, access routes, health facilities including equipment and medical supplies being washed away crippled access to quality health care.
But much as Chikho and the rest of others have been receiving various relief items at the camp, the survivors, especially those of age and married ones have been lacking something vital. For those married, one would say the liberty of accessing their conjugal rights as they would want has been limited, and the same can be said about those not married as most of them have had fears of contracting sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies.
"I was on the pill and that night I did not get a chance to save them. I only cared about rescuing my family and it was too late to save the rest," said the mother of two.
In light of the dangers of poor access to sexual reproductive health services especially for those living in evacuation camps, the Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) rolled in an urgent intervention in line with their mandate of providing comprehensive sexual reproductive health and rights services, targeting evacuation camps in Blantyre.
According to FPAM's Advocacy and Communication officer Faith Kamtambe Kadzanja, the services are being offered in response to the sexual reproductive health needs of the affected population.
"Our objectives for providing these services include to prevent the transmission of and reduce morbidity and mortality due to HIV and other STIs, prevent excess maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality as well as to prevent unintended pregnancies and this is part of our we humanitarian response following the devastating impact of Cyclone Freddy," she said.
Kamtambe also added that the package includes supplies such as reproductive health kits and other sexual reproductive health activities, coordination, and planning.
Thanks to FPAM's intervention, over 2,000 survivors have benefited from the initiative so far since it started last month, men have also been benefitting from the services.
Still at Matope Camp, Nelson Weluzani told us that provision of the services is a relief to the men, as most men will be able to have their sexual satisfaction with an assurance of no unplanned pregnancies during the period of their recovery.
"Much as we were separated from the women we still find a way of satisfying ourselves sexually," he confessed.
"It's not just me, there are many others and as it is I have a condom in my pocket just in case a need might arise at any point," Weluzani said, further urging men to take issues of sexual reproductive health rights seriously.
With support from the International Planned Parenthood Federation, FPAM has used an allocation of US$30,000 towards the exercise.