Teenage pregnancy remains a problem in the Philippines where four of 10 teenagers are mothers, according to Klaus Beck, country representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Beck cited a study that showed that at least P33 billion in earnings is lost annually due to teenage pregnancy, which is also the main cause of maternal death.
Combating young pregnancy, Beck said, is literally a matter of life and death.
“The Philippines is the only country in Asia and the Pacific where we have not seen a decrease in teenage pregnancy in the last two decades. In fact, we are seeing an increase,” he said.
The most recent study conducted in 2013 showed that 57 in 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 were pregnant. In 2008, the ratio was 53: 1,000.
“Whenever a girl’s potential goes unrealized, we all lose,” Beck said Thursday during the launch of UNFPA’s State of World Population (SWOP) Report for 2016.
The official urged parents to provide age-appropriate sex education, which can start as early as age five.
He said the more young people know about sex, the less they will do it.
Cariza “Aiza” Seguerra, head of the National Youth Commission (NYC), agreed, saying the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood-Reproductive Health law which encourages the practice of responsible and safe sex was not enough.
Seguerra said this was because the youth below 18 years old need parental consent to gain access to the services provided by the law.
“Who would go and tell their parent that they want to get a condom?” Seguerra said.
Seguerra encouraged parents to communicate openly with their children.
She added sex and health education should start in the family.
The UNFPA said the world’s future depends on 10-year-old girls.
Experts identified 10 as the pivotal age for girls because it is the start of their puberty.
The agency said developing economies stand to win an extra $21 billion if they improve girls’ health and sex education.
Girls in developing countries are less likely than boys to complete schooling because of forced marriage, child labor and female genital mutilation, risking the opportunities presented by their largely young populations, said the study, launched in London.
“Over the next 15 years alone, developing countries together stand to gain or forfeit at least $21 billion, depending on whether or not they invest in the well-being, education, and independence of their 10-year-old girls today,” it said.