The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) has intensified family planning and responsible parenthood programs as the COVID 19 crisis is feared to cause poverty-worsening, economy-debilitating population boom.
A historically observed social phenomenon, a population boom has been noted to follow a crisis. Regardless of the reasons behind this trend, POPCOM said it had taken measures to strengthen its family planning programs and distribution of contraceptives.
“We saw in the past during the lifetime of our parents or grandparents the significant increase in birth rate after a major adverse event,” according to Dr. Juan Antonio Perez III, POPCOM Executive Director.
“This is the reason why family planning is even more important during our current COVID-19 crisis.”
Dr. Perez stressed the importance of family planning during his participation in a live Facebook session organized by Bayer Philippines. The online channel, Ask Mara PH, intends to provide relevant information to women about reproductive health and contraceptive options.
“While it is more difficult now to provide important information about family planning and reproductive health issues, we appreciate initiatives such as Ask Mara where people can just log on to ask questions about these topics and get answers right away," said Dr. Perez.
According to Dr. Perez, POPCOM gives priority to communities vulnerable to further socio-economic deterioration as a result of unplanned pregnancies.
He said: “Nearly one-third of a typical Filipino household budget is used up to cover the cost of pregnancy. It leads to many families having to do with less because they have more mouths to feed. This has an aggregate impact in the economy.”
POPCOM brought its Family Planning programs to their target communities during the lockdown when people were compelled to stay at home.
“The government continues to reach out to families through its dedicated health workers,” added Dr. Perez. “Even in this pandemic, health services like family planning should continue because life goes on.”
According to a survey by the government's Philippine Statistics Authority, three out of every 10 pregnancies are unplanned or unintended.
The United Nations Population Fund also reported that even if some 214 million women worldwide wanted to avoid pregnancy, they risked getting pregnant.
This is due to lack of access to Family Planning methods or absence of support from partners and communities. Similarly, the National Demographic and Health Survey shows roughly one in 10 women aged 15-19 have begun childbearing and 17 percent of women aged 15-49 want to practice FP but do not have access to said FP methods.
This hinders women to reach their full potential to contribute more for themselves and their families, according to POPCOM.
Meanwhile, the United Nations through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Philippines, through POPCOM, stressed that sexual and reproductive health and rights, including Family Planning was a fundamental right of every human being and that it is a major step toward breaking the cycle of poverty—both for women and their families and for the countries where they live.
In support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal on good health and well-being, Bayer announced its sustainability target of enabling family planning for 100 million women in low and medium-income countries by 2030.
This includes a recent appointment of an independent sustainability council to examine the progress made by Bayer in the implementation of its sustainability targets and oversee the advancement of social innovations.
While COVID 19 crisis requires non-pharmaceutical intervention, and minimum health standards such as social distancing and proper hygiene, POPCOM said it was giving more attention to areas based on population density.
“Out of 42,000 barangays, we analyze based on population density and availability of facilities,” said Dr. Perez. “We work with barangays and mayors, and we share our recommendations on vulnerable areas that should be given more resources to maintain health services.”
Even if health services are made available to those in need, Dr. Perez added that it still boiled down to responsible parenthood. “Before thinking about raising a family, the couple must think through a lot of considerations.
Based on their earning capacity and increasing cost of living, how many children can they provide for? How would they ensure the best for their children—physically, mentally, and spiritually?”
POPCOM has established help lines to provide more support through information sharing and guidance.
They have people manning the stations almost 24/7 to answer questions on family planning, adolescent sexuality, COVID-19, and even gender-based violence. They are available in Metro Manila and in POPCOM’s regional offices and details are found in their website and Facebook page.