Joint Press Release
Manila, Philippines - The Department of Health (DOH), along with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN agency dedicated to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and the prevention of gender-based violence (GBV), is deeply concerned with the current increase of COVID-19 cases and the destruction left by Typhoon Odette in the Visayas and Mindanao regions will have potential effect on pregnant women, especially those with high-risk pregnancies and victims of domestic violence.
Reports of women in labor being turned away from hospitals due to overcapacity have already appeared in the media. As hospital capacity increases due to COVID-19 patients and the possible closures in addition to community quarantines commence, more women in need will be cut off from essential medical and protection services; thus, placing women and their unborn children in great danger.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) Civil Registry data reveal that there was an estimated 30% increase in mothers dying during childbirth in 2020, and preliminary data for 2021 show that the trend will remain the same. Unintended pregnancies may also increase to up to 42%. Analysis done by UNFPA in early 2020 revealed that more women delivered at home compared to previous years. In Metro Manila, there were three times more women who gave birth at home in January 2021 compared to the same period in 2020 pre-pandemic.
“The needs of pregnant and lactating women and victims of domestic violence must not go unnoticed. We must ensure the continuity of essential and life-saving SRH and GBV services not just throughout the course of the pandemic but also beyond these trying times,” said Secretary of Health Francisco T. Duque III.
“We need to act quickly and together to ensure women and girls experience safe pregnancy and childbirth, have continued access to sexual and reproductive health services, and be protected from domestic violence during this COVID-19 surge and throughout the Typhoon Odette relief efforts,” underscored UNFPA Philippine Country Representative Dr. Leila Joudane.
The UNFPA and DOH call on all partners both private and public, to place the needs of pregnant and lactating women and victims of domestic violence at the center of its response in addition to advocating for helplines to remain open in order to accommodate the needs of women for family planning and GBV response.