Aside from house-to-house distribution of FP commodities, POPCOM is calling on community pantry organizers to also carry condoms and pills—in coordination with their local health centers. POPCOM RO V

The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) strongly encourages proponents of community pantries to include contraceptives such as condoms and pills as necessary goods in their distribution activities.

The agency has noted the increasing importance of these sprouting kiosks across the country in temporarily providing basic necessities for less privileged Filipinos and thus, is enjoining their organizers to also carry the above-mentioned modern family planning methods, in coordination with local health centers.

In an interview, Undersecretary for Population and Development (POPDEV) Juan Antonio Perez III, MD, MPH noted the dispensation of family planning services and commodities as essential during the ongoing public health emergency that can help prevent unplanned and teenage pregnancies. As such, the presence of these modern methods of contraception in community pantries should also be seen as filling a void in the rollout of family planning activities, which are greatly disrupted by the pandemic.

“POPCOM is very much supportive of community pantries as a form of collective action in alleviating the need for sustenance of our less privileged. We believe that they will welcome the addition of condoms and pills among the goods they will source—with the help of their local healthcare personnel,” said the POPCOM chief.

Perez explained that in providing these essential family planning supplies, community pantry initiators should seek the support of local health personnel like barangay health workers (BHWs), as well as family planning and barangay population volunteers (BPVs), as the latter are knowledgeable of the individuals in their locale who need pills and condoms. The community pantry setup can also help facilitate the line of work of the said BHWs and BPVs.

Augmenting network: Meanwhile, FP volunteers are also called upon to hand-out the family planning commodities in all possible community quarantines, as house-to-house distribution in some areas are still being implemented.

“As the most popular family planning method, pills need a prescription or enrollment in the family planning program. Our BHWs and BPVs can be invited to assist in dispensing such,” the POPCOM chief pointed out. “On the other hand, condoms may be freely given to those who are sexually active and want to avoid HIV infections and other sexually transmitted infections or STIs, as well as those who are mindful of preventing unplanned pregnancies.”

The undersecretary for POPDEV also praised propagators of the community pantries all over the country, as they manifest the bayanihan spirit of the Filipinos during these most trying times: “These laudable initiatives are observable proofs of our countrymen’s desire that no one of his fellow Filipinos will be left behind in terms of basic necessities as we continuously face the Covid-19 crisis head on. It’s an outward display of their innate drive for inclusivity in our society, where human development is a work in progress, even during a health crisis.”

To complement these noteworthy activities, POPCOM has also directed its regional offices to actively take part in community pantries in their locale, using various initiatives in partnership with BHWs and BPVs. These cover the re-supply of the commodities to their existing family planning clients, the provision of onsite family planning information via distribution of related printed materials and installation of tarpaulins featuring family planning methods, and the extension of possible assistance that LGUs may request—subject to resources available.

The head of POPCOM also reminded those who will carry out the allocation of condoms and pills, as well as to those who will avail of the said family planning commodities in community pantries, to observe health protocols at all times.

Most popular FP methods: POPCOM quoted the last National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) 2017, which revealed that about 1 out of 5 Filipinas take pills as their preferred modern family planning method. As reflected also in the said 2017 NDHS, two-thirds (66%) of women ages 15 to 49 know that using condoms is a means of preventing HIV transmission. The survey also noted that for Filipinas, the pill is the most widely known contraception method (98%), followed by the male condom (96%).

The POPCOM executive director likewise reminded of the urgency to attend to women of the aforementioned age bracket, as there are about 3,099,000 of them with unmet need for family planning exacerbated by COVID-19, according to the recent study of the University of the Philippines-Population Institute and the United Nations Population Fund. With family-planning services impeded due to the nationwide implementation of community quarantines, an additional 2,070,000 might be added to the figure, bringing the total to 5,168,000—a 67-% hike.