COVID-19 created the largest health and socio-economic crisis of our generation. Many health systems were pushed to the brink by restrictive measures rushed in to respond to the pandemic, resulting in the deprioritisation of some existing healthcare services. In almost all European countries, COVID-19 had a negative impact on the delivery of vital sexual and reproductive healthcare, including maternal health and family planning, for women and groups that face barriers to accessing care, including young people. The pandemic also uncovered weaknesses within our systems and exposed the fact that countries are not adequately prepared to deal with health emergencies.
To help bring about positive change for young people, IPPF European Network is working to strengthen healthcare systems through the project Youth Voices, Youth Choices, and to remove all kinds of barriers preventing youth from accessing essential care in five Balkan countries: Albania; Bosnia & Herzegovina; Bulgaria, Kosovo and North Macedonia. We are focusing particularly on the needs of those living in remote areas, as well as those from communities that face challenging social conditions, such as the Roma.
As a basis for this work, we conducted a study to provide us with a clearer picture of the impact of the pandemic on young people’s SRHR. This series of reports presents the findings of the study, carried out by and among youth in five Balkan countries. The reports, available for download below, document young people’s SRH needs and experiences and the perspectives of healthcare providers and other relevant stakeholders on these needs. They also capture the latter’s needs as they deliver services, information and education to young people, building on their experience of COVID-19.
Young people are at the heart of this project: they were part of the research teams and as a next step, will join expert groups who will build on these reports to develop recommendations for policy change at national and regional level.