Philippines braces for baby boom due to lockdown

Doctor Jan Claire Dorado (R), 30, tends to a patient connected to a mechanical ventilator at the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Emergency Room of East Avenue Medical Center, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, June 26, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 July 2020

Philippines braces for baby boom due to lockdown

  • Lack of access to family planning services, due to restrictions on movement, cited as main reason

MANILA: The Philippines’ anti-coronavirus lockdown could lead to 214,000 extra babies and the highest number of births in the country in two decades, a report by the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) has said.

It cited a severe lack of access to family planning services, due to the restrictions on movement imposed in March, as the main reason for the anticipated baby boom next year. 

“Looking at these numbers, we foresee that because of the restrictions of movement as well as the reduction of access of women and men to family planning supplies, there will be at least one pregnancy for every three women with an unmet need for family planning,” Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III, POPCOM executive director, said in a report.

It cited a study by the University of the Philippines Population Institute and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in saying an estimated 2 million babies are expected to be born in the country next year. 

The study noted that more than 200,000 of the births would be from unplanned pregnancies.

Perez said the exponential growth in numbers is “just some of the adverse impacts of the community quarantine to the welfare of our families, which further aggravates the situation of the ongoing health crisis.”

The report said 10 percent of births next year will be among individuals below 20 years of age.

Perez said: “More distressing are the figures for teenagers, or those between 15 and 19 years old. From an initial estimate of 163,000 adolescents with unmet need for family planning, the lockdown will swell this number to 15,000, aggregating the entire set at 178,000, or a surge of 9.3 percent.”

According to POPCOM, the highest number of births in the country since 2000 was 1.79 million, with the numbers declining after that. 

“There were 1.668 million births in 2018. Thus, the additional 214,000 unplanned pregnancies would push the number to almost 1.9 million in 2021, which will make it the highest number of births in the country in more than two decades,” it said.

Studies show that the contraceptive prevalence rate for modern family-planning methods — the percentage of women who use any method of contemporary contraception — is projected to decline by 2.2 percent.

This means over 400,000 women are expected to drop out of the country’s family-planning program.

“While the numbers are staggering, this should sound the alarm for everyone that as the pandemic rages on, family planning should still be top-of-mind for everyone — not only for those directly involved in service delivery, but also for all men and women — mothers and fathers, and even teenage children — who can make a difference by doing their very best to avoid being added as a statistic to the abovementioned numbers; that is, to ensure that they help reduce the incidences of unplanned pregnancies,” Perez said.

Additionally, while quarantine measures have been eased since March, only some family-planning facilities are open to maintain social distancing.

To facilitate people in the process, Perez said emergency measures for family planning are in place, including home delivery of three months’ worth of supplies of pills and condoms for those who have signed up for the family-planning program. 

There is growing concern over the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on family-planning services globally, with the UNFPA predicting that as many as 7 million unintended pregnancies could occur worldwide due to the crisis. As of Tuesday, the Philippines had recorded more than 35,400 coronavirus cases.


Russia says world’s largest nuclear icebreaker embarks on Arctic voyage

Updated 22 September 2020

Russia says world’s largest nuclear icebreaker embarks on Arctic voyage

  • Russian state firm Rosatomflot has called the vessel the world’s largest and most powerful icebreaker
  • The ship was named after a Soviet-era icebreaker of the same name that in 1977 became the first surface ship to reach the North Pole

MOSCOW: A nuclear-powered ice breaker Russia says is the world’s largest and most powerful set off on Tuesday on a two-week journey to the Arctic as part of Moscow’s efforts to tap the region’s commercial potential.
Known as “Arktika,” the nuclear icebreaker left St. Petersburg and headed for the Arctic port of Murmansk, a journey that marks its entry into Russia’s icebreaker fleet.
Russian state firm Rosatomflot has called the vessel the world’s largest and most powerful icebreaker. It is more than 173 meters long, designed for a crew of 53, and can break ice almost three-meters thick.
The ship is seen as crucial to Moscow’s efforts to develop the Northern Sea Route, which runs from Murmansk to the Bering Strait near Alaska.
Amid warmer climate cycles, Russia hopes the route could become a mini Suez Canal, cutting sea transport times from Asia to Europe.
“The creation of a modern nuclear icebreaker fleet capable of ensuring regular year-round and safe navigation through the entire Northern Sea Route is a strategic task for our country,” Vyacheslav Ruksha, head of Rosatom’s Northern Sea Route Directorate, said in a statement.
Prior to its voyage to the Arctic, the icebreaker was tested during sea trials in the stormy waters of the Gulf of Finland, navigating its way through high winds and towering waves.
The ship was named after a Soviet-era icebreaker of the same name that in 1977 became the first surface ship to reach the North Pole.
Russia has stepped up its construction of icebreakers in a bid to increase freight traffic in Arctic waters.
President Vladimir Putin said last year that the country’s Arctic fleet would operate at least 13 heavy-duty icebreakers, the majority of which would be powered by nuclear reactors.