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‘Baby boom’ likely in disaster-hit areas—UNFPA

MONTHS after Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan) ravaged the Visayas, experts from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) warned that a “baby boom” or a significant increase in babies being born, is likely to occur in these areas. 

In an interview with the BusinessMirror on the sidelines of the World Population Day news conference on Wednesday, UNFPA Philippines Country Representative Klaus Beck said that an increase in the number of births had been observed even in other places.

He also said that, while the UNFPA is yet to obtain figures on pregnant women in disaster-stricken areas, it was observed that there were more pregnant teenagers months after the super typhoon hit.

“Generally, after a typhoon like this, we would expect that there would be an increase in the number of births [occurring] nine months [later]. There’s a bit of concern about that, [but] I am not aware of any hard numbers that would back up this concern. But what we do know is [that] it seems that, among those who are pregnant…a larger [percentage] of [them] are…in the 15- to 19-year-old range….” Beck said. 

One of the reasons for the increased number of pregnancies in disaster-stricken areas is depression caused by the separation from or the deaths of family members.

According to the UNFPA official, people sometimes have sex to “comfort” each other during difficult times. 

Another reason is that some social services, such as the provision of reproductive-health materials, could have been disrupted.

“The government is aware of this [problem] and are taking steps to rectify the situation,” Beck said. “I know [that] the government has been leading efforts to identify women who are pregnant or lactating, and…to make sure that [its] regular delivery of health services [is] coming back on stream again.”

The increase in the number of adolescents who engage in “early sexual encounters” in these areas follow the global and national trend.

Data showed that over 272,000 girls between 15 and 19 years old give birth every year in the Philippines. Seventy-nine percent of those who engage in their first early sexual encounter do not use contraception. 

Beck said 22.8 percent of 18-year-olds in the Philippines have begun childbearing and 3,896 Filipinos between 15 and 24 years old are already diagnosed with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Unique interventions

THE increase in the number of young, sexually active Filipinos has pushed the Department of Health (DOH) to institute unique interventions that are geared toward addressing adolescents’ reproductive-health (ARH) needs.

Health Undersecretary Janette Garin told reporters that her department has earmarked about P400 million this year and P615 million next year to finance programs that can meet these needs.

These include the provision of booster immunization shots for teenagers and expensive human papillomavirus or anti-cervical-cancer vaccines for female high-school students, as well as tetanus shots that will protect high-school students for life and prevent tetanus-caused deaths among Filipinos who give birth at an earlier age. 

According to Garin, the DOH is deploying trained nurses and midwives to rural health facilities to address ARH needs and concerns among young Filipinos. 

 

 

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