Young people and groups with vulnerabilities in the Western Balkans face a great many barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, they have borne the brunt of additional obstacles to accessing information, support and care. COVID-19 has demonstrated how fragile national health systems are and highlighted countries’ unpreparedness to deal with health emergencies. But it has also stimulated creativity by civil society and other actors to counter these barriers, with digital outreach and support playing an expanding, crucial role.
Youth Voices, Youth Choices is a project dedicated to learning from the COVID-19 experience in the Western Balkans to ensure sexual and reproductive health services, information and education become more accessible and youth-friendly in the long term, especially for marginalised groups. Running from 2020 until 2023, it brings together IPPF members and partners in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Kosovo, supported by IPPF EN’s Regional Office.
Project partners have conducted research into the impact of the pandemic on young people’s SRH needs and access to services and information, and the role of integrated digital services, with a focus on communities living in remote areas and unfavourable social conditions. They are sharing good practices and empowering young people as campaigners and advocates using digital and offline education tools. And working in multi-stakeholder partnerships, they are developing policy recommendations to support advocacy and youth-led campaigns for stronger health systems and increased access to care, in and beyond emergency situations.
On 26 October 2022, IPPF EN will launch a set of regional policy recommendations based on our research into how the pandemic affected young people. Check out our YVYC resources page!
Take a look at our Stories section for a new interview series with young people on how COVID affected their access to SRHR information, education and care, and their vision for the future.
This work is funded by MSD for Mothers.