MANILA – The University of the Philippines Population Institute and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) predict a huge baby boom next year as a result of unplanned pregnancies caused by the pandemic according to the British daily The Guardian.

A sister company of The Observer publication in Britain, The Guardian says studies from the two institutions on population suggest that there would be an estimated additional 214,000 babies to be born next year in the Philippines.

The Guardian reported that the Covid-19 restrictions have made family planning services unreachable and overwhelmed and could result in highest birth rate for 20 years.

Shortages of condoms and contraceptive pills have also contributed to the potential Covid-19 baby boom in the Philippines.

The Philippines’ strictly enforced coronavirus lockdown has severely disrupted access to family planning services and could lead to the highest number of births in the country in two decades, The Guardian said.

Movement restrictions imposed in March prevented both patients and medical staff from reaching clinics for months, and are now causing shortages of condoms and other contraceptives in some areas, according to health workers.

Nandy Senoc, executive director of the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP) said that while his staff continued operating throughout the lockdown, all work has been negatively impacted. Government facilities officially remained open, he added, but in reality, services were inaccessible.

Though quarantine measures have since been eased, public transport remains disrupted, and some family planning facilities are open only with skeletal staffing, to allow space for social distancing.

There are also continued shortages of condoms and contraceptive pills, especially in island provinces and rural areas far from the capital.

FPOP is encouraging women to take long-acting contraception, he added, and its clinics are giving out bigger supplies of the pill, in case movement restrictions are re-imposed.

“But the problem with this is we are running short of supplies now,” he said.

“Reproductive health services are not considered a priority in the government response.”

It is estimated that the number of women unable to access family planning rose by one fifth during lockdown, to 3,688,000.

“We will be the ones delivering these babies in nine months time,” said Dr Esmeraldo Ilem, director of the Dr Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila, the country’s busiest maternity ward.

There is growing concern over the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on family planning services globally, with UNFPA predicting as many as 7 million unintended pregnancies could occur worldwide as a result of the crisis. (ia/SPH/The Guardian)