Samar and Southern Leyte as pilot areas

TACLOBAN CITY– ‘Glenda,’ 22 got pregnant five years ago to an equally young man she met here in the city during its fiesta.

Now, aside from not getting any financial support from the father of their five-year-old daughter, she is also out of work since 2021 as the laundry shop she was working closed shop due to the pandemic.

The case of Glenda, who is from this city, is the problem involving teenagers getting pregnant at their young age.

On Monday (Fev.20), a program which aims to address the high teenage pregnancy problem in Eastern Visayas was launched here in the city.

In particular, the mainly South Korean government-funded program, at P490 million, will be implemented in the provinces of Samar and Southern Leyte for the next four years.
The regional office of the Population Commission and Development (Popcom) had earlier reported that teenage pregnancy cases in Eastern Visayas with all of its six provinces posting ‘alarming cases.’

For 2020 period, for instance, there were 1,093 cases of teenage pregnancies recorded in Samar province and 483 cases for Southern Leyte. These involved 15 to 19 years of young mothers.

The two provinces of Samar and Southern Leyte were selected as the pilot areas for the program which aims to ‘accelerate the reduction of adolescent pregnancies’ to a ‘significant level if not to zero cases’ says Health Sec. Maria Rosario Vergeire.

The two provinces were also selected due to poor access to health services; perennial occurrence of natural calamities like typhoons and the cooperation of their local leaders to implement the program.

The representatives of the two provinces expressed their gratitude to the KOICA and its partners saying this will help boost their campaign against teenage pregnancy as they cited peer pressure and mental health problems and lack of sex education, among others.
Initially, 20 areas in both provinces were selected under the program which will conduct improved adolescent access and services and information drive on teenage pregnancy and extend health benefits for pregnant teenagers; provide a ‘standardized’ peer education program and accelerate the integration of the comprehensive sexuality education program in school and even out of school; and work closely with local government units to enhance their programs on the prevention of adolescent pregnancy, among others.

Vergeire was joined during the launching of the joint program by Gustavo Gonzales, the United Nations resident coordinator; Dr. Leila Joudne, United Nations Population Fund (UNFP); Dr. Graham Harrison, World Health Organization representative; and Eunsub Kim, country director of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), among others.
Vergeire said that adolescent pregnancy is not just a health issue as it poses risks to teenagers like death but even a social issue.

“It often results in poor lifelong and economic outcomes for both the adolescent mothers and her child,” she said.

Citing a study from the UNFPA, Vergeire said that teenage mothers fail to finish their studies, unemployed and poor.

“More importantly, the poor outcomes also extend to her children, who are more likely to have poor nutrition and education outcomes,” Vergeire added.

Joudne said that based on their studies, the country losses P33 billion due adolescent pregnancy due to lost opportunities and potential earnings.

Gonzales described the teenage pregnancy problem as a ‘development challenge’ among countries with high such cases like the Philippines, the second in ASEAN Region next to Laos.

It was learned that the Philippines has 56 such cases out of 1,000 population. Laos has 64 adolescent cases out of 1,000 population.

Kim said that they hope that with the implementation of the program in Southern Leyte and Samar provinces, in particular, the program of teenage pregnancies could be now properly addressed.

“This project will hopefully display South Korea’s commitment to contribute to achieving of a healthy life,” he said, adding that they are committed to make the project a success.

“KOICA assure you of our deep commitment and strong support of this project,” Kim added.