LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 30 (PNA)—-The Commission on Population (Popcom) in Bicol, which is observing the month of August as “breastfeeding month” and “family planning month,” has continued to intensify its information and education campaign (IEC) geared especially to teenage mothers in the region.
Popcom-Bicol Director Magdalena Abellera said the campaign stems from previous studies showing a rise in teenage fertility in the Bicol region and the sizeable number of youths in the region having sexual experience.
She said the rate of teenage fertility for females, aged 15 to 19, was 6.3 percent in 2002, but this went up to 7.3 percent in 2013.
Abellera said “a recent study of PopCom Bicol showed that 62.9 percent of the youth in the region or 1 in 3 young people from the ages of 15 to 24 have had sexual experience.”
In Bicol, around 200,000 belong to the age group 15 to 24 years old. They comprise 30 percent of the total population of 5.7 million in the region, data of Popcom Bicol showed.
During a teenage pregnancy summit conducted by PopCom Bicol, Abellera expressed alarm at how the teenagers engaging in sex and getting pregnant in the region have become younger.
"The Department of Health (DOH) even has records of a nine and ten-year-old who got pregnant in the region,” she said.
Around 70 teenage mothers from Legazpi City and neighboring Albay municipalities participated in the pregnancy summit.Dissemination of information was made available to the young women on such concerns as child rearing, nutrition, livelihood skills and alternative learning while resource persons also tackled topics such as the laws on violence against women.
Students from the Bicol University, teachers from various schools and Popcom's program partners--government agencies and their pool of child specialists and workers introduced to the teenage mothers the skills and knowledge that will help them cope with the challenges of motherhood at a young age.
Popcom’s program partners included the Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Technical Education Skills Development Authority, local government units and non government organizations.
During the same summit, DOH-Bicol Director Dr. Napoleon Arevalo confirmed the cases of the nine-year-old and 10-year-old who became pregnant.
He said DOH learned of the girls’ plight when the girls visited the health workers in their villages for pre-natal consultations.
Arevalo said one of the girls was a victim of incest while the other became pregnant after having sex with her boyfriend.
"The parents should always look after the welfare of their children, especially their daughters,” he said.
Arevalo added the parents must be knowledgeable about the day-to-day activities of their children.
He added the parents should regulate their children’s access to social media and Internet where “irresponsible persons post scandalous material.”
Among the participants in the summit was Salvacion Abina, mother of a three-month old baby boy whose husband works in the farm in Barangay Banquerohan in this city.
She said she is thankful to Popcom for helping her with “life skills” that would help her survive in life and continue to pursue her dreams.
Abina advised other young people to learn to “open up about their problems to their parents.”
She said the young should be obedient to their parents and learn how to discipline themselves.
Another teenager who joined the summit, a resident of Barangay Kiwalo in Daraga, Albay who preferred to be called “Nena,” said she and her husband, who is a construction worker, are still staying with her husband’s parents.
Nena, 18, advised students to pursue their studies first before having a boyfriend or a girlfriend.
“They should always obey their parents,” she said.
The plight of Abina and Nena is shared by other youths in the country.
Authorities estimate 19 million who belong to the age group 15 to 24 in the Philippines.
Results of the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) cited that: “One in ten young Filipino women, age 15-19, has begun childbearing: eight percent are already mothers and another two percent are pregnant with their first child.”
The survey results, which was released by the Philippine Statistical Authority in August 2014, also stated that 15 percent of young adult women, age 20 to 24, had their first marriage or began living with their first spouse or partner by age 18.
“Motherhood in childhood is a huge global problem, especially in developing countries, where every year 7.3 million girls under 18 give birth,” said a report the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) which was published in January 2013.
“Too often, society blames only the girl for getting pregnant,” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA executive director.
He said reality points to adolescent pregnancy being most often “not the result of a deliberate choice, but rather the absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl’s control.”
Osotimehin said pregnancy during the teenage years is an offshoot of “little or no access to school, employment, quality information and health care.”
The 2013 UNFPA report said early pregnancy not only takes a toll on a girl’s health, education and rights but also prevents her from realizing her potential and “adversely impacts the baby.” (PNA) FPV/GVR/JH/CBD