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MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines recorded a 13% decrease in the number of births among adolescent mothers in 2020, setting a record for the sharpest decrease in births of women under 20 since 2003, the Commission on Population and Development (PopCom) said on Friday, January 28.
In 2020, the number of births among adolescent mothers, or those aged 10 to 19, dropped by 23,855 compared to 2019’s figure. However, tens of thousands of young girls and women still gave birth in 2020 – with the figure at 157,060.
According to the PopCom, a substantial part of the decrease occurred in the 15-to-19 age bracket, with 23,557 less births from 2019 to 2020. This comprised 98.7% of the decline.
The average number of daily births among women aged 15 to 19 decreased to 425 in 2020 from the 2019’s 489.
Meanwhile, among those aged 10 to 14 or the very young adolescents group, there were 298 fewer births. The average daily births went down from seven in 2019 to six in 2020.
New data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), meanwhile, found that there were 31 births per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 in 2020 – also a decrease from the 47 per 1,000 in the 2017 National Demographic Health Survey. This beats the Philippine Development Plan’s target for 2022, which was 37 births per 1,000 girls in that age range.
Along with many parts of the world, the Philippines went under strict lockdowns in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a drop in numbers as the pandemic hampered access to sexual and reproductive health services, especially for young people.
In June 2021, President Rodrigo Duterte declared the prevention of teenage pregnancies a national priority in the country.
PopCom Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III called the development “good news” for the commission and their partners who have been advocating a reduction in teen pregnancies.
“Parents and their adolescent children have internalized an increased awareness about the problem of teen pregnancies with regard to the health and wellbeing of girls having children as minors,” he said.
In November 2020, a Social Welfare Stations survey found that Filipinos think teenage pregnancy is the “most important problem of women today” in the Philippines.
“The decline noted throughout the year serves as evidence that things are slowly changing for the better for our young women,” said Perez.
Despite the decrease in births by young girls and women, the PopCom said it will continue to address the effects of high birth rates together with the Department of Social Welfare and Development and local government units.
PopCom estimates that 160,000 families led by teen mothers will require social protection in 2022. “The numbers might rise anew once pandemic concerns recede,” the commission said in a statement.
Comprehensive sexuality education has been mandated by the government since the reproductive health (RH) law was signed in 2012. However, advocates have noted that this has yet to be rolled out uniformly across the country.
Based on the RH law, minors can access birth control in government health facilities only if they have permission from their parents. Young women have battled stigma in accessing reproductive health information and services. – Rappler.com