As the battle with COVID-19 turns into weeks and months, the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) Secretariat greatly appreciates your understanding as we work diligently to navigate this rapidly evolving situation. Every one of you is contributing to our collective efforts to help “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 in order to facilitate our eventual return to normalcy and ease the burden on our community and health system. We salute all of our colleagues who continue to carry out essential, life-saving work around the world.
Due to the uncertainty surrounding this novel virus and its immense impact upon mass gatherings, especially those requiring travel from many far-reaching areas such as ours, the International Conference on Family Planning Secretariat, in coordination with the experts who constructed the World Health Organization’s Mass Gathering Guidelines, the ICFP Core Organizing Group, International Steering Committee, National Steering Committee Secretariat, and ICFP subcommittees, has made the difficult but necessary decision to reschedule the sixth ICFP to 8-11 November 2021 in Pattaya City, Thailand (originally to take place 1-4 February 2021). We maintain our commitment to hosting this important global gathering of reproductive health and family planning professionals in Pattaya City.
We hope that this action will mitigate as much risk as possible to the health and safety of our delegates and those in our host country of Thailand, by allowing time for the production and wide distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.
As well, due to the extended cessation of all non-essential research in many places where our partners and delegates operate, this postponement will allow more time for all to see their research projects to fruition and therefore allow us to carry out our conference mission of providing a platform for advocates, young people, government leaders, and scientists to share proven research and best practices in family planning and reproductive health.
With this in mind, the deadlines for both the abstract and youth leader travel grant submission modules have been extended and the submission process for both will re-open in November 2020. We encourage you to sign up for the ICFP 2021 newsletter to be the first to know about important date changes such as these.
This is a challenging and frustrating time, but it also offers a window of opportunity for extraordinary leadership. The sexual and reproductive health community has the unique opportunity to play a significant role in the dissemination of information about and the containment and mitigation of this global pandemic, and we look forward to working with your office to ensure that family planning and reproductive health remain at the forefront of the global health agenda.
COVID-19 will have lasting implications for all sectors of the reproductive health field including research, resource and commodity mobilization, service delivery, communication, gender-based violence, humanitarian settings, advocacy efforts, and reproductive health policy. The greater reproductive health community is resilient and must unite to confront the pandemic by modifying and sharing applicable best practices, creating innovative solutions, and accruing knowledge about the immediate and long-term effects of this virus on our community. These activities are essential for swiftly identifying and addressing the obstacles we face and making immediate improvements to better prepare and protect our communities worldwide to ensure they continue to receive the quality reproductive healthcare they need.
To support these efforts, we have added “Impact of COVID-19 on Family Planning and Reproductive Health” as a new track for the 2021 ICFP. We have also created a “COVID-19 and Reproductive Health” page on the ICFP website, which highlights the innovative resources, tools, solutions, and best practices from the ICFP community that are helping us push forward through these uncertain times.
As our community continues to push forward during this historic and unprecedented time, sharing family planning successes, responses, learnings, and innovations will help us grow stronger and move forward as a community. ICFP Monthly Actions are designed to leverage the expertise and reach of ICFP partners and supporters to highlight the solutions, contributions, and innovations of the family planning and reproductive health communities. ICFP invites our colleagues to share how you and your organizations are approaching the various challenges presented by COVID-19. You can submit your blogs, videos, and infographics on the ICFP2021.org website under the “Community” Tab. These actions will occur each month leading up to #ICFP2021 and you can learn more about the COVID-19 Monthly Action here.
Additionally, in an effort to help the family planning and reproductive health community centralize and efficiently and effectively sort through the vast amount of information being disseminated by our trusted partners in this time of crisis, the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health has launched a COVID-19 Reproductive Health Resource Hub (COVID-RHR Hub) to house a wide range of resources including: action initiatives, best practices and tools, community insight, government initiatives, research and academic publications, news/media, op-eds, multilateral initiatives, funding and grant opportunities, and online events/webinars.
It is our hope that our collective contribution to this compilation of important resources will help to inform decisions and efforts of the public, governments and policymakers, donors and philanthropists, healthcare providers, researchers, and advocates crucial to a timely and effective response to better prepare and protect our communities worldwide to turn the tide of the pandemic and ensure that all continue to receive the quality reproductive healthcare they need.
The world certainly looks different now than it did when we selected Thailand as the host country for the 2021 ICFP, and I want to reiterate that we remain committed to ensuring this conference exceeds expectations.
We will continue to be in touch as the Secretariat, International Steering Committee, National Steering Committee in Thailand, and our various subcommittees work to shift toward the November date. Many of the questions we’ve received have been posted in the Frequently Asked Questions page on the ICFP2021.org website. If your question remains unanswered, the firstname.lastname@example.org email is available for further questions.
We thank you for your understanding and unwavering commitment to family planning and reproductive health and for the steps you have already taken to ensure that this conference is a great success. And we look forward to seeing you in Pattaya City, Thailand November 8-11, 2021 for the sixth International Conference on Family Planning.
Jose “Oying” Rimon II
Director, Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health
Chair, International Conference on Family Planning Core Organizing Group and International Steering Committee
Senior Scientist, Population Family and Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health