MANILA - The Department of Health (DOH), along with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), has expressed concern that the rise in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases and the destruction left by Typhoon Odette in the Visayas and Mindanao, would affect pregnant women, especially those with high-risk pregnancies, and victims of domestic violence.
In a news release Wednesday, the DOH said reports of women in labor being turned away from hospitals due to overcapacity have appeared in the media.
It said as hospital capacity increases due to Covid-19 patients and the possible closures in addition to community quarantines commence, more women in need would be cut off from essential medical and protection services, placing women and their unborn children in great danger.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) Civil Registry show an estimated 30 percent 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 percent.
Analysis done in early 2020 by the UNFPA, the UN agency dedicated to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and the prevention of gender-based violence (GBV), showed that more women delivered at home compared to previous years.
In Metro Manila, three times more women 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," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.
"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," UNFPA Philippine Country Representative, Dr. Leila Joudane, said.
The UNFPA and DOH called 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, aside from advocating for helplines to remain open to accommodate the needs of women for family planning and GBV response. (PR)