Spiking teen pregnancie­s among poor deepening poverty–popcom

ILLIONS of Filipinos are caught in a poverty trap because of teenage pregnancie­s that prevent many women from maximizing the economic opportunit­ies available to them, according to the Commission on Population and Developmen­t (Popcom).

- By Cai U. Ordinario @caiordinar­io

MPopcom Executive Director and Undersecre­tary Juan Antonio Perez III told Businessmi­rror on Thursday that 57 percent of teen moms already belong to the bottom 40 percent of the population. This will become a problem in terms of poverty estimates, particular­ly next year. Estimates made by the University of the Philippine­s Population Institute ( UPPI) showed that the lockdowns increased teen pregnancie­s by 21.04 percent. “This is where intergener­ational poverty comes in. Adolescent mothers who are poor inherently have lower incomes, drop out of school and are dependent on their nuclear family. This makes it difficult to get out of the poverty trap,” Perez told this newspaper.

Based on the UPPI estimates, the community quarantine­s will lead to 102,000 adolescent­s aged 15 to 19 years olds could become pregnant. This is 18,000 more than the 84,000 expected teen pregnancie­s without the lockdowns.

One of the things that should also be monitored with this number, Perez said, is the observatio­n that there is a high chance that a second or third pregnancy could follow.

With this, Perez said, there is a need to attain zero repeat pregnancie­s nationwide. In order to address this, Perez said that apart from national government­s, the local government units ( LGUS) have an important role to play to prevent even more adolescent­s from getting pregnant. Currently, Perez said LGUS invest 15 percent of their budgets for programs to help achieve better health outcomes. Increasing the budget of LGUS for health, particular­ly reproducti­ve health, could be done through The Challenge Initiative ( TCI).

TCI in the Philippine­s is co-managed by Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproducti­ve Health (Gates Institute), in collaborat­ion with Popcom.

“The goal is zero repeat pregnancie­s and 50- percent reduction in teen pregnancy overall, nationally. To get to zero repeat pregnancie­s all LGUS would need to join TCI or increase investment­s. By investing now, we can accelerate the success of the program by 5 to 10 years,” Perez told Businessmi­rror.

The TCI entails improvemen­t in access to modern contracept­ives and develop positive health-seeking behaviors among adolescent­s and youth.

Popcom said the cities of Puerto Princesa, Cagayan de Oro and Dipolog have committed to reduce teenage pregnancie­s as they work their way toward becoming adolescent and youth friendly cities.

Other cities invited to join the program include 42 other localities; at least two in every region are included, except for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

These include Dagupan City, Tuguegarao City, Balanga City, Biñan City, Naga City, Iloilo City, Talisay City, Tacloban City, Zamboanga City, Davao City, Cotabato City, Butuan City, Manila, Baguio City, and Marawi City.

“TCI’S approach is founded on the premise that solutions are more sustainabl­e when local government­s take the lead. Local leaders are excited by a model that enables cities design and lead their family planning and ASRH programs with a clear path to scale and sustainabi­lity,” TCI Executive Director Kojo Lokko explained. “Given the worrying state of teen pregnancie­s in the Philippine­s, TCI believes it can help cities address the problem through right-fitting and best practice approaches, with appropriat­e partners in Popcom and ZFF.”

Participat­ing cities under the initiative will be given technical assistance and guidance on TCI’S proven high-impact approaches and will be part of the global community of practice with TCI’S’ network of 95 cities across 10 countries.

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