Access to RCH services during the COVID-19 crisis: Insights from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh

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In 2020, as the novel coronavirus picked up pace, the Indian government called for a 21-day nationwide lockdown on March 25, which was extended until May 3. As of April 23, 21,700 cases were reported in India, a share of less than 1 percent of global cases. As in any humanitarian crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to affect access to public health services, particularly reproductive and child health (RCH) services. An ongoing COVID-19 knowledge, attitudes, and practices study implemented by the Population Council Institute in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh sought to assess female participants’ access to RCH services. Participants were asked, “Under lockdown, are you getting any of the following reproductive and child health services: antenatal care, family planning, child immunization, and nutritional services?” According to this brief, plans must be put in place to identify demand for different RCH services and how they may be reorganized and delivered through innovative mechanisms while keeping in mind all physical (e.g., due to lockdown), financial (e.g., due to income or job loss), and social (e.g., due to high-risk perception) barriers to accessing services due to the pandemic.