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Hello world, I’m Mirembe Mariam from Uganda. I work as Programs Manager at an organization called COHERINET, with five years’ experience working on abortion related projects. COHERINET is a non-profit organization that improves accessibility and availability of comprehensive sexual reproductive health at the grassroots level in Uganda. Since 2017, we have rendered comprehensive abortion care services through innovative approaches to reach vulnerable populations, with financial support from the Safe Abortion Action Fund.

The uncertainty caused by COVID-19 has doomed and stretched the livelihood of Ugandans left in limbo.

Uganda now has endeavored to combat COVID-19 by majorly diverting resources and enforcing curfews, travel restrictions and the closure of schools and institutions. On a sad note, access to abortion care services has been swept under the carpet. The same has happened with teenage pregnancies, which have risen. This denial or delay of abortion has created a fall back. It has lead women and girls to seek alternative methods of unsafe abortion, thus putting their health at risk.

The financial impact of the pandemic also means there has been limited contraceptive availability, high pricing, shortage of medical doctors and nurses and a lot of drug stock outs in local health centers. Shockingly, due to the pandemic, abortion services have boomed. We have seen a rise in the pricing of these services, which not everyone can afford.

Fortunately, COHERINET continues to put emphasis on increasing uptake and access to comprehensive abortion care services to build resilience against this disturbance.

We launched the Aunt KAKI toll free helpline in 2018.

The Aunt KAKI helpline aims to meet a great need for access to accurate and reliable sexual and reproductive health information and services. It is a 24-hour toll-free line that offers confidential, safe information to women and girls at the grassroots in Uganda. It has expanded women’s ability to access abortion, with or without having to visit a health center. It supported them to self-manage abortion with pills as well as surgically.

To combat the ever fluctuating prices of abortion services COHERINET has also engaged community stakeholders and health distributors to call for equitable distribution to the necessary and vulnerable. Using the helpline and trained community liaison officers we can connect those needing abortion services to the identified affordable health care centers. C

OHERINET continues to create awareness and sensitize the public through our community liaison officers. They provide essential information and dispel myths and misconceptions. They also refer women and girls in need of abortion care services and contraception. Their work builds trust and cohesion within the communities we work with.

As I reflect back, I know I am better having been inspired by the lives of those women and girls that I have rendered an aiding hand to during the course of my service.

We call upon the government and different stakeholders to collaborate with civil society organizations like us! Together we need to support health care facilities with adequate essential commodities to address the needs of women and girls – not just during this pandemic, but in the future too.

COHERINET is a SAAF grantee partner.

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