Here’s a statistic people should pay more attention to: The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) recently recorded a seven percent increase in births among girls 15 years old and below in 2019—a figure that can increase due to pandemic restrictions.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), 2,411 girls aged 10 to 14 became mothers last year. Of this number, two 10-year-olds were reported to be the youngest of the adolescents who gave birth in 2019.
POPCOM regional director Lydio Español Jr., warned that these numbers may continue to increase this year because of less access to maternal and family planning services, which are “very crucial in mitigating cases of early pregnancies.”
Studies from the University of the Philippines’ Population Institute and the United Nations Population Fund, said the number may increase by 18,000 more due to barriers to reproductive health services during lockdown.
An increase in sexual and gender-based violence may also be a factor that can worsen teenage pregnancies in the country. According to the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), 13,923 cases of violence against women and children were recorded from Mar. 15 to Nov. 30, 2020.
While this number was lower compared to statistics in 2019, the PCW reported that pandemic restrictions may prevent victims of abuse from reporting to authorities.[READ: An overlooked COVID-19 stat: 3,000+ cases of violence against women and children since lockdown]
The Philippine National Police-Crime Information Reporting and Analysis System and Women and Children Protection Center also reported a total of 2,678 cases of child rights violations from Mar. 1 to May 15 last year, most of which involved rape, child abuse and exploitation.
In response to this, Health Undersecretary and POPCOM chair Juan Antonio Perez III called on the government to address the spread of teenage pregnancy cases through efforts between government agencies.
“This requires more than a whole-of-government approach. Thus, we are calling on the private sector, LGUs, development partners and relevant government agencies to collaborate closely with us in arresting this social menace grappling our youth,” he added.