Maternal Mortality in the Philippines

By Jelly F. Musico

President Benigno S. Aquino III urged the local government units (LGUs) on Friday to play major role along with the private sector in achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 or reduction of maternal mortality ratio from 162 to 52 per 100,000 live births by 2015. 

"Allow me to use this opportunity to appeal to our partners in the LGUs. Your support means a lot in saving the lives of your constituents," the President said in his message read by Health Secretary Enrique Ona during the 162 to 52 Summit: Accelerating Collective Impact on Maternal and Child Health at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).

President Aquino also recognized the continued support and commitment of the private sector to achieve a daunting task of reducing the maternal deaths before the term of the President ends in 2016.

"With just three years left, the Philippines is behind the target maternal mortality ratio. All sectors both in the private and public fields, from government partners and in the civil society, can unite and make strong push to attain MDG 5," the President emphasized.

Aside from improving maternal health, President Aquino said his administration is also determined and committed to reduce child mortality and fight other diseases like tuberculosis, malaria and human immune deficiency or HIV through strengthened vaccination campaign nationwide.

"To achieve these goals, we have formulated a health reform plan that centers on promoting universal health care and we called this Kalusugan Pangkahalatan (health for all) or KP," the President said.

The President revealed that for the last two years, the government has spent P15 billion for the improvement and construction of health facilities, including health centers with operating rooms nationwide to prevent maternal deaths.

President Aquino also said the Department of Health (DOH) hired more than 20,000 nurses and 7,000 midwives to serve in the barrios, including in the far-flung areas where the poorest of the poor hardly get properly medical care.

"We need more equipment, we need more medicines, we need more trained and compassionate, committed people to man our hospitals. The more people manning our health facilities means more lives will be saved," President Aquino said.

Due to the health reform program implemented by the Aquino administration, more than 15 million infants and children have been given proper care all over the country.

The President commended the DOH, the LGUS, private sector as well as the national government organizations (NGOs) for coming out with the multisectoral organization called the "162 to 52 coalition" which is envisioned as the catalyst for strategic, targeted, and innovative public-private partnerships (PPPs) for the attainment of better maternal indicators.

"This coalition needs to prosper for us to achieve MDG 5 and reduce maternal mortality. The bottom line, this is not just about saving the lives of people, we are also saving the lives of our future generation," the President said.

In a press conference, Ona stressed the importance of coming out with updated and accurate data on the real number of mothers who died due to inadequate pre- and post- natal to achieve the MDG 5.

Governor Alfonso Umali Jr. of Oriental Mindoro, president of the League of Governors of the Philippines, agreed with the DOH chief that all the stakeholders should come up with uniform data on the number of the maternal mortality rate.

Based on the data provided by the United Nations Fund for Population Agency, 11 mothers die everyday in the Philippines due to maternity-related causes, leaving more than 30 children motherless.

"As of 2008, the Philippines has an adjusted maternal mortality ratio of 162 per 100,000 live births. This is far from MDG target of 52 deaths per 100,000 live births," Ona said.

"The shortfalls are brought about by inadequate investments in health and not enough political will of our leaders do to what needs to be done to achieve our goals," the DOH head added.

UNPFA country representative Ogochi Daniels said the Philippines is one of 68 countries accounting for 95 percent of all maternal and newborn deaths in the world and "there has been no notable decrease during the last several years."

"The good thing is we know the cures. The solutions aren't complicated. If women have access to Family Planning so she can get pregnant only if she wanted to, we could prevent almost a third of maternal deaths," Daniels said.

Umali vowed to convince his colleagues to support the coalition's goal "to make a it a successful one."

Rafael Cofa, executive director of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), also made commitment to continuously support to uplift the lives of every Filipino through responsible business practices in the country.

"PBSP engages companies to promote health in the workplace by integrating health projects and promoting access to health services for employees and communities," Cofa said.

The 162 to 52 Summit has been organized to provide the non-profit sector and the governors a venue to forge partnerships and commit to improve maternal and child health through PPP at the local government level.

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