MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH), along with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), has expressed concern that the surge in cases of the 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and the devastation caused by Typhoon Odette in the Visayas and Mindanao would do this to pregnant women, particularly those with high-risk pregnancies, and victims of domestic violence.
In a press release Wednesday, the DOH said reports of women at work being turned away because of hospital overcapacity had surfaced in the media.
As hospital capacity increases due to Covid-19 patients and potential closures begin in addition to community quarantines, more women in need would be cut off from essential medical and protective services, putting women and their unborn children at great risk.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) civil registry shows an estimated 30 percent increase in mothers dying in childbirth in 2020, and preliminary data for 2021 shows the trend will remain the same.
Unwanted pregnancies can also increase up to 42 percent.
An analysis conducted in early 2020 by UNFPA, the UN Agency for Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) and the Prevention of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), showed that more women were giving birth at home compared to previous years.
In Metro Manila, three times more women gave birth at home in January 2021 than in the same period in 2020 before the pandemic.
“The needs of pregnant and breastfeeding women and victims of domestic violence cannot be ignored. We must ensure the continuity of essential and life-saving SRH and GBV services not only during the course of the pandemic but also beyond these difficult times,” said Health Minister Francisco Duque III.
“We must act quickly and collectively to ensure women and girls experience safe pregnancy and childbirth, continue to have access to sexual and reproductive health services and stay safe from domestic violence during this Covid-19 wave and during the relief efforts of Typhoon Odette are protected,” said UNFPA representative for the Philippine country, Dr. Leila Joudane.
UNFPA and DOH called on all private and public partners to put the needs of pregnant and breastfeeding women and victims of domestic violence at the center of their response and to work to keep emergency numbers open to meet the needs of women Family planning and response to GBV. (PR)