PH gov’t, KOICA
and UN agencies launch joint programme to address national emergency
of adolescent pregnancies
March 1, 2023
TACLOBAN CITY –
Officials from the Philippine government, Korea International
Cooperation Agency (KOICA), and the United Nations (UN) jointly
launched on February 20, 2023 a programme that aims to address the
high rates of adolescent pregnancies in the country.
Funded by the Republic of
Korea, through the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA),
the joint programme “Accelerating the Reduction of Adolescent
Pregnancy in Southern Leyte and Samar in the Philippines” aims to
improve access of the adolescent population to sexual and
reproductive health (SRH) services and information, to raise their
self-awareness on sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well
as to enhance leadership and governance on ASRH.
According to the World
Bank, the Philippines has one of the highest adolescent birth rates
among the major economies in the ASEAN region.
In November 2022, KOICA,
the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations
Children’s Funds (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO)
inked the agreement on the joint programme, which is slated to last
until 2026. Leading the Joint Programme steering committee is the
Department of Health (DOH) with the UN Resident Coordinator, Gustavo
Gonzalez, as its co-chair. Joining as members are the said UN
agencies, KOICA, the Department of Education (DepEd), and the
governors of Samar and Southern Leyte.
“Korea is committed to
support the Philippines in its goals to achieve universal health for
all. This is the first time that KOICA is working on a joint project
on adolescent health in partnership with the three UN agencies in
the Philippines. Hence, we look forward to working towards improving
the comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights of
Filipino adolescents in the Philippines,” said KOICA Country
Director Kim Eunsub.
DOH Officer-In-Charge Dr.
Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire said that teenage pregnancy, which has
been declared by the government as a national social emergency,
deprives many young Filipinos of their future, she then highlights
of addressing these concerns through solidarity in partnership.
“Together, we, along with
our partner agencies and stakeholders – must work in weaving our
strategies to contribute to positive and long-lasting impacts for
adolescents. As a key objective of the Universal Health Care Act,
equitable access to health services for the youth, especially those
in the vulnerable and marginalized sector, is central to the DOH’s
priorities. To address these gaps, we will continue to seek the
support of our partners, as we can only truly achieve the
universality of health through a whole-of-government and
whole-of-society approach,” said DOH OIC Singh-Vergeire.
“Adolescent pregnancy is
not only a health and education problem but also an economic
development issue,” said Gustavo Gonzalez, United Nations (UN)
Philippines Resident Coordinator. “We are hoping that with this
program with KOICA, we will be able to reduce adolescent pregnancy
and support the Philippines in maximizing the ‘demographic
With the Philippines
having one (1) out of three (3) people under the age of 18, it is
expected to benefit from the change of its population structure
towards a younger demographic structure. However, the window
opportunity that the demographic dividend brings may be lost if
Filipinos are not able to care for their sexual and reproductive
health and their families.
Gonzalez said the group is
eager to build on previous partnerships with the local governments
of Samar and Southern Leyte and to accelerate the progress that they
have reached in terms of development and humanitarian programs.
Besides being one of the
Philippines’ poorest and most typhoon-battered regions, the 2021
Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality (YAFS5) Study also showed that
Eastern Visayas has the highest rates of 15 to 19-year-old female
youths that had begun childbearing.
The programme’s efforts
are expected to provide additional training for health workers and
non-health service providers such as social workers, teachers and
peer educators; work on the expansion of the PhilHealth package for
adolescent pregnancy; provide mobile medical facilities to benefit
adolescents; and support the implementation of a Performance
Accountability System for the local health and government units, as
well as a Youth Leadership and Governance initiative.
The steering committee of
this Joint Programme will be collaborating with other strategic
government partners that will serve as advisory members: the
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the
Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and the
National Youth Commission (NYC). Other government units will also be
part of the regional and provincial committees of the program.
Coinciding with the joint
programme launch is the ongoing congressional discussions on the
proposed measures to address adolescent pregnancy.