The health crisis brought by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus outbreak has not only affected the health condition of Filipinos, but has also engendered threats of violence against women and children, as well as vulnerable members of the Philippine population.

Given this, the Philippines, along with other countries, is actively initiating interventions to protect and promote the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. For its part, the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) has joined hands with other national government agencies such as the Department of Health, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Philippine Commission on Women as well as the Department of Social Welfare and Development, among others, in pushing for the welfare of Filipino women by calling all duty bearers to institute mechanisms to prevent gender-based violence during the health crisis.

Moreover, current efforts to address the reproductive health needs of women and girls are being pursued by POPCOM. Some of these strategies include the continuing provision of family planning services by village (barangay) health workers, the provision of helplines to provide information as well as referral services on family planning, prevention of adolescent pregnancy and gender-based violence. POPCOM, through its Family Wellness Clinic, supports the local government units in the provision of FP services.

โ€œWith the continuing threat of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of every Filipino, we should heed the international call to mitigate the impact of the health crisis on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of each woman, girl, and child,โ€ Undersecretary Juan Antonio A. Perez III, MD, MPH, POPCOMโ€™s executive director, averred. โ€œIn the course of preventing the spread of the disease, pandemic responseโ€”particularly at the community levelโ€”should also include interventions that ensure the access of the marginalized segment of population to reproductive health services, including family planning services and timely responses to violence against women and girls.โ€

POPCOM thus supports the joint statement by ministers and leaders around the world calling for unified support and collective action in protecting sexual and reproductive health and rights. The statement also calls for the promotion of gender-responsiveness of various interventions in addressing the COVID-19 crisis.Usec Perez