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Alarming teenage pregnancy gets foreign attention

TACLOBAN CITY – Southern Leyte and Samar provinces in Eastern Visayas were identified by three international institutions – the Korea International Cooperation Agency (Koica), United Nations (UN), and World Health Organizations (WHO) – for funding, mainly to curb the escalating teen pregnancies in these areas.
Officials from the above three organizations, the Department of Health (DOH), and local government units jointly launched the program with the theme, “Accelerating the Reduction of Adolescent Pregnancy in Southern Leyte and Samar in the Philippines,” last February 20, 2023 at the Summit Hotel in Tacloban City.
The aid for teenage pregnancy programs in the Philippines has a total budget allocation of Php 490 million to the selected provinces with highest teenage pregnancy rates particularly in Eastern Visayas, Calabarzon, Central Luzon, Zamboanga Peninsula and Northern Mindanao.
The project aims to improve access of the adolescent population to sexual reproductive health (SRH) services and information by capacity building of community adolescent health services, mobile health facilities and expansion of PhilHealth benefits for pregnant adolescents. It also targets to raise awareness, by standardizing and strengthening peer education and accelerating the integration of comprehensive sexual education (CSE) and teacher training; enhance youth leadership and governance; and conduct research on child, early and forced marriages.
The fund will help 275, 538 adolescents with age of 10-19; train 20 health facilities, 150 health service providers, 150 teachers for CSE, 360 local chief executives, 3,000 adolescents through youth leadership, 7500 learners for CSE; and to 900,000 adolescent mothers in the country. The project started last year 2022 and will end in year 2026.
“This is the first time that KOICA is working on a joint project on adolescent health in partnership with the three UN agencies in the Philippines. Hence, we look forward to working towards improving the comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights of Filipino adolescents in the Philippines,” said KOICA Country Director Kim Eunsub.
“Adolescent pregnancy is not only a health and education problem but also an economic development issue,” Gonzales Gustavo Gonzalez, United Nations Resident Coordinator said.
“We took to decide development; we took to decide time,” Gonzalez commented, as they opt for Eastern Visayas as one of the most disadvantaged regions in the country considering its higher poverty rate and natural disaster occurrences which had disrupted services, with Typhoon Oddette as an example.
“Adolescent pregnancy is first and foremost a health issue, as with all our other efforts, the DOH cannot do it alone,” Officer-in-charge DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergerie said.
Southern Leyte provincial health officer in-charge Dr. Feliciano John Matibag shared that basic health services during the onslaught of Typhoon Odette was put on hold; also mentioning that this as one of the main reasons why teenage pregnancy rates are escalating in the province.
Moreover, in Southern Leyte Times issue 1186 an article stated, “In Southern Leyte’s 2019 provincial teenage pregnancy monitoring data made by the Provincial Social Welfare Development Office, there were a total of 383 pregnant women with age ranging from 10 to 19 years old. The report prepared by Jonalyn M. Gaviola stated that the highest incident came from Sogod with 68 pregnancies; followed by Maasin with 62; Saint Bernard and San Juan with 42 each; Hinunangan with 41; Malitbog, 26; San Francisco, 21; Hinundayan, 19; Libagon, 15; Liloan, 13; Pintuyan, 10; San Ricardo, 7; and Limasawa and Silago with 4 each.”
A survey trend by the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that there is an increasing prevalence of premarital sex over the years, from 18 percent in 1994 to 32 percent in 2013. The survey further stated that one out of three Filipino youth engages in premarital sex, which results in the increasing cases of adolescent pregnancy especially in the urban areas.
The Philippines has one of the highest adolescent birth rates among the major economies in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, according to World Bank data.
“Teenage pregnancies plight can cause trauma, costs, and losses,” United Nations resident coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez disclosed during the press conference.
DOH undersecretary Vergerie extended the country’s gratitude to partner agencies KOICA, WHO, United Nations Population Fund, and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund for mobilizing assistance to “one of the most prevailing issues the Philippines continuously faces.”
(Rhonechelle Cabodbod, edited by GMReyes)

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