October 8, 2020
The Philippines, like the rest of the world, has been suffering from the impacts of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). One of the sectors affected in the pandemic is our group of adolescents aged 10-19 years old. Not only did it affect the regular learning session of students but also hampered their opportunities to gain relevant information about sexuality and reproductive health (SRH) which is vital to health development.
According to the Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study, 52% of adolescents do not have information about sex and 20.5% of them do not have anyone to consult to when confronted with challenges related to sex. To address this concern, the Commission on Population and Development – Region X (POPCOM X) capacitated the local population officers in providing age and development appropriate information to increase the young people’s understanding on their own sexuality and other reproductive health issues. Municipal and City Population Officers (M/CPOs) has been visiting schools and barangays and in the presence of adolescents discuss topics on puberty, love and romantic relationships, adolescent fertility, risks of teenage pregnancy and substance abuse, among others.
However, the regular information drive has been deferred in view of the ongoing COVID-19 related policies that prevents individuals 21 years old and below to leave their homes as a means to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus.
According to the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI), there is an expected increase in unplanned pregnancy among adolescents as a result of unprecedented reduction of information and services due to the implementation of community quarantines. With the recent threats to health, adolescents are prohibited to go out of their homes without any important reasons and this makes it challenging for M/CPOs to group them and conduct ASRH classes.
From March to September 2020, during the peak of the increasing cases of people infected with COVID-19, there were only a total of 3, 877 adolescents reached through these classes, an 81% decrease compared to the number of adolescents reached (20, 549) of the same period last year.
It is a continuous challenge of the population program to intensify AHD programs and activities given the current health crisis.
According to the Region Director of POPCOM X, Jeremias C. Gupit, “Amidst this pandemic, adolescents, especially those who are already teen parents, should seek available information and services to prevent repeat pregnancy”.
To keep up with the need for information on sexuality and reproductive health, M/CPOs will continue to conduct ASRH classes to out-of-school youths (OSYs).
To further generate awareness and interest, POPCOM X maximizes the use of social media and radio airwaves by putting in place the “Kabataan Talakayan” on adolescent health and development (AHD). A helpline is also available for adolescents to call and text if and when they have questions regarding sexuality and other reproductive health. For adolescents who are already parents, services on family planning are also available in the health centers as well as in the POPCOM FP clinic.
With the threat of the virus and the risks brought about by early sexual initiation and unplanned pregnancy among teens, now, more than ever, is the time for program implementers and partner stakeholders of AHD to innovate strategies to reduce the rising cases of teenage pregnancy. Adolescents are also encouraged to arm themselves with correct and appropriate information on ASRH while they are spending time in the comfort of their homes.