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Teenage pregnancy now a national emergency.

The Commission on Population and Development (PopCom) has requested President Rodrigo R. Duterte for the issuance of an executive order declaring teenage pregnancy as a national emergency as incidence rates disturbingly rises.

Teenage pregnancies is now one of the major national problems concerning the children and youth. While adolescent pregnancy rates in most countries are declining, the figures are growing in the Philippines.

According to PopCom Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III on October 23, teenage pregnancy significantly contributes to economic losses in the country with 33 Billion pesos losses.

In his report, about 1.2 million children are having their own children yearly, with 30,000 young mothers who have experienced repeated pregnancies.

The DOST-NRCP project on teenage pregnancy during disasters

The Department of Science and Technology-National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP), had actually collaborated with the PopCom in 2017 through a research project that explored the links and external factors of incidence of teenage pregnancies after Supertyphoon Haiyan/Yolanda and Typhoon Ruby in the case of Eastern Visayas. The study led by Prof. Gloria Luz Nelson, DOST-NRCP member, used the study results in designing programs for teenagers during disasters.

 

According to the study, whenever there are crisis such as natural disasters, families are evacuated, relocated or displaced. With the poor conditions of the temporary shelters where there are less provisions for privacy and security, adolescents especially girls 10-19 years old are considered a vulnerable group. In Eastern Visayas teenage pregnancy was recorded at two for every ten youths (Fig 1). Moreover, most girls had their first boyfriend at age 15, the age of initiation to premarital sex (Fig 2).

 

Figure 1. Teenage pregnancy in Eastern Visayas is two (2) for every ten (10) youths, regardless of the severity of the disaster/typhoons.

Figure 2. Indicates that most youth had their first boyfriend at the age of 15, the age of initiation to premarital sex. Age of menarche is 12.

The survey was participated by 727 (12-21 years old) female youth from randomly selected households.

Protocols and policies generated from the DOST-NRCP project

As an advisory council, DOST-NRCP crafts research/evidence-based protocols and policies which are useful in policy-making particularly in crafting House Bills and laws, as well as in aiding schools and government agencies in developing programs for the youth and the public in general.

The study that focused on the disaster shelter experience of those who participated in the survey gave the following results: 1) Length of stay of youths in disaster shelters is positively associated with the incidence of teenage pregnancy; 2) Adolescents in disaster-prone areas are likely to be molested; 3) The number of moves from one shelter to another prolonged the return of teenagers and youth to normal life; and 4) The timeliness of the Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (ASRH) programs, should mean age-appropriateness rather than grade-level appropriateness.

The results of the study were also disseminated to all women legislators in the Senate and Congress. Particularly, the results were submitted to Congresswoman Sol Aragones as inputs to House Bill 4742 (Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy Act of 2017) which she authored. The House Bill has no provision on the link of teenage pregnancy and disasters. NRCP recommended the inclusion of provisions that will address both sexual and non-sexual risk factors that increase the incidence of teenage pregnancy

The results of the study was also compiled in the DOST-NRCP Policy Brief, A Special Series on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA), Issue 1 Q1 2017.

On August 6, 2019, the project of Prof. Nelson was featured in the Technology Media Conference at the Sequoia Hotel, Quezon City, and the NRCP Visayas Policy Forum at UP Visayas Tacloban College on November 3, 2017.

Vice President Leni G. Robredo and Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara have expressed their support to the request of PopCom to make the issue on teenage pregnancies a “national emergency.” Citing a report from the Department of Education, Sen Angara noted that unwanted pregnancy was a major reason why many elementary and high school female students had stopped going to school. (Jenny Leigh Daquioag-Porca)