Nearly two million babies are expected to be born next year in the Philippines due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study by the University of the Philippines (UP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), local news site Coconuts Manila reported on Thursday.
The study cited a lack of access to contraceptives caused by coronavirus lockdown measures as the main reason for the additional births.
The Philippines’ population center and capital, Metro Manila, endured one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world during the ongoing pandemic. For 76 consecutive days, roughly 13 million people in Metro Manila lived under virtual house arrest. Restrictions on movement during the quarantine prevented women from visiting medical clinics that distribute contraceptives, and many of these facilities were also forced to close due to lockdown measures. Although the quarantine eased on June 1, many restrictions on movement remain.
Speaking to the Philippine news agency ABS-CBN on Thursday, Executive Director of the Philippines’ Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) Juan Antonio III said:
The regular number of births in the Philippines, like in 2018, was 1.7 million. Now the UP Population Institute has made a projection, in coordination with the UNFPA, that there will be 214,000 additional [births]. So it would appear that 1.9 or almost 2 million babies are [expected] next year [to be born] in the Philippines.
The Philippines has an estimated population of 110 million people this year.
According to Antonio, the researchers “saw that about 600,000 Filipino women couldn’t get their family planning supply because of the lockdown; it’s hard to go to the health center.” In response, POPCOM is now asking local governments “if they could deliver family planning supplies to each home.”
“According to UP, if the lockdown continues, more women won’t be given [contraceptives]. If 600,000 [women] are not given family planning supplies, at least 200,000 unplanned pregnancies are expected,” the director said.
“About ten percent of those who will give birth are still in their teens,” he added.
In late April, UNFPA predicted that the coronavirus pandemic would indirectly cause roughly seven million unplanned pregnancies globally.
“Significant levels of lockdown-related disruption over six months could leave 47 million women in low and middle-income countries unable to use modern contraceptives, leading to a projected seven million additional unintended pregnancies,” the U.N. agency said.