UN Volunteer Akiyo Nonogaki joined the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in October 2020 as a Sexual and Reproductive Health Programme Officer. Her assignment was to support the response to COVID-19, but then the conflict in the Tigray region broke out. Akiyo reflects on how the unpredicted humanitarian crisis broadened her perspectives and strengthened her commitment to support the vulnerable.
UNFPA has been active in Ethiopia since 1973 and is working with the government, UN entities and partners to improve sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning, emergency obstetric care and fistula treatment. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed significant pressure on health service delivery and compounded existing challenges in promoting gender equality and improving maternal health.
Akiyo was responsible for developing and implementing UNFPA interventions in the context of the pandemic. This included ensuring continuity of sexual and reproductive health, family planning and maternal health services. She engaged in programme management across five regions of the country, developing workplans and conducting monitoring and evaluation, in cooperation with regional health bureaus and implementing partners.
During her assignment, Akiyo produced communication materials and prepared and facilitated workshops, events and training sessions. She also worked on reports and policy briefs.
“I prepared UNFPA Ethiopia’s project progress reports, which documented outcomes and lessons learned, while also outlining a way forward for donors," Akiyo explains. “Following in-depth analysis, I outlined potential solutions to improving the quality of reporting on maternal and perinatal deaths in both pandemic and humanitarian crisis settings. I also developed a policy brief on universal health coverage and presented it to the Consortium of Reproductive Health Associations on the occasion of the International Day of Universal Health Coverage," she adds.
Just a few days after my arrival in Ethiopia, the conflict in Tigray region occurred. All of a sudden, I had to juggle multiple priorities – the humanitarian response, COVID-19 pandemic and poor health service delivery – in a volatile situation. The negative impact of the pandemic on the vulnerable, especially women and girls, increased by the day. --Akiyo Nonogaki, UN Volunteer Sexual and Reproductive Health Programme Officer with UNFPA, Ethiopia
Akiyo's duties were extended to cover humanitarian response, and she pursued resource mobilization, coordination with donors and life-saving service delivery. She successfully mobilized US $900,000 in funds from the Japanese government for a project to improve the health and wellbeing of women and adolescent girls in select districts affected by conflict and COVID-19.
Akiyo’s volunteering experience was impacted by COVID. Despite being able to travel to her duty station in Addis Ababa, local pandemic restrictions meant she was unable to work at the office for stretches of time.
"These circumstances really inspired me to build relationships with my colleagues through methods other than via email to maximize our collaboration and outcomes," Akiyo shares.
I was very satisfied with my experience as a UN Volunteer, given the breadth of thematic areas I was involved in during my assignment. I am proud to have made a significant contribution to UNFPA and its work on sexual and reproductive health. --Akiyo Nonogaki
Akiyo’s assignment was funded by the Government of Japan, as part of its COVID-19 programme.
This article was prepared with the kind support of Online Volunteers Helen Maccan and Nadine Schilg.