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LEGAZPI CITY, Albay - Teenage pregnancies in the Philippines surged by 70 percent over one decade, a ranking official of the United Nation Population Fund Agency (UNFPA) said on Monday.
Ugochi Daniels, UNFPA country representative, said the rising number of teenage pregnancies in the country is an area of concern that the agency is giving serious attention to, exposing as it does adolescent girls (10 to 19 years old) to high risk.
Daniels said a strong advocacy campaign is needed to educate and advise young Filipinas about the dangers posed by early pregnancies, and to inform them about reporductive health in general.
She added that the teen pregnancy concern, if not given focus, can derail and affect the country's program targets with respect to its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
At 53 births per 1,000 women aged between 15 and 19, the teenage pregnancy rate in the Philippines is the highest among Asean's six major economies, the United Nations Population Fund's 2011 annual report says.
Government statistics on female adolescent pregnancies indicate that the total number of annual births changed little over the preceding 10 years, but the number of teenage pregnancies rose 70 percent, from 114,205 in 1999 to 195,662 in 2009.
Based on data compiled from birth certificates, of the 1.75 million live births in 2009, the latest review year, over 11 percent involved teenaged mothers.
On Monday, Daniels and Albay Governor Joey Salceda signed a Letter of Understanding (LOU) to jointly undertake population development programs in Albay.
Salceda said the joint partnership carries a P40-million funding spread over a five-year project timeline starting this year.
He said the fund will be used to carry out reproductive health projects in the 15 towns and three cities of the province.
The project involves an information-education campaign on RH on women, youngsters, HIV AIDS; trainings, and the pursuit of MDG components on maternal health, reduction of child mortality, promotion of gender equality, combating HIV/AIDS and eradication of poverty.