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Dhaka, Bangladesh, 24 March 2022 - As a result of extended school closures and restricted availability of and access to adolescent-friendly health services, adolescents’ and young people’s access to information on reproductive health and other critical issues has been severely compromised in Bangladesh during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the wake of the significant increase in internet use by Bangladeshi adolescents and young people, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) are starting a new partnership to develop a new web-based digital platform for young people called Alapon Online. The funding for the initiative comes from the Islamic Development Bank’s Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Fund leveraged through an innovation call dedicated to enhancing the COVID-19 response of developing countries.

The partnership was officially launched on 24 March 2022 during a virtual ceremony, which was attended by the Manager of Islamic Development Bank’s Regional Hub in Dhaka, Muhammad Nassis Sulaiman, and the acting Country Representative of UNFPA in Bangladesh, Dr. Eiko Narita. The initiative builds on the successes of the UNFPA supported Alapon helpline run by Concerned Women for Family Development, which has provided professional counseling to young people in Bangladesh throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through the new platform, young people will be able to call and message the counselors free of charge and receive contextualized information on reproductive health and rights, gender-based violence, and other issues relevant to adolescents and youth. Mr. Muhammad Nassis Sulaiman, IsDB Regional Manager said: “This is a very timely initiative which will benefit adolescents and young people to access information, raise their awareness, and get necessary services free of charge on reproductive health. IsDB is pleased to have UNFPA as a partner for this innovative digital platform to be created for young and adolescents of Bangladesh and wished the success for UNFPA and its partners in implementing the project.” He, however, advised particularly to capture the key lessons of this innovative project in order to utilize those in future interventions.

“In the context of the digital transformation and COVID-19 pandemic, it is more crucial than ever that we bring health services and information as close to young people as possible. We are proud to be collaborating with the Islamic Development Bank in implementing this innovative initiative, which will ensure that life-saving information and support will be available to young people across Bangladesh as long as they have access to a mobile and internet,” UNFPA Representative a.i., Dr. Eiko Narita, stated in her remarks at the event.