No Woman Should Die Giving Life

Acknowledging the gravity of maternal health problems in the country, governors where maternal deaths remain serious committed to implement programs that will address the problem. Three of these governors—Sol Matugas of Surigao del Norte, Paul Daza of Northern Samar and Sharee Ann Tan—also forged a partnership with the Zuellig Family Foundation by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

The MOU stipulates that ZFF will be giving health leadership and skills training programs to selected municipalities of the region while the regional government provides the necessary financial and logistical support to participating municipalities as well as resources such as medical supplies, health personnel and trainers for frontline health personnel to boost local health reforms.

The signing was part of the “162-52 Summit” held recently at the Philippine International Convention Center. An initiative of a multi-sectoral coalition that was formed after the ZFF’s Third Health Outlook Forum held last December, the health summit was meant to bring to the consciousness of health stakeholders the serious maternal health problems in the country.

The numbers 162 and 52 are the maternal mortality ratios of the country, the former being the 2008 official figure while the latter is the 2015 Millennium Development Goal target which, at the rate things are going, the country might not be able to attain.

Over 200 individuals listened to resource persons from both the private and public sectors. Heading the list of speakers is Health Secretary Enrique Ona who delivered the speech of President Benigno Aquino III.

In his speech, the President reiterated the critical roles of local governments in sustaining the health programs initiated by the national government. “Let me appeal to our friends in the LGUs: facilities established through the national coffers need to be sustainable. We need more equipment; we need more medicines; we need more trained, compassionate, committed people to man our hospitals.”

He also said that private sector participation is very important to give the necessary boost to fast-track health improvements. “We need the private sector to bring us over the threshold, to shorten the final mile that women have to walk or travel to get to the nearest health facility and skilled birth attendant when they need it.”

He added that the innovations that private sector possess are most needed in the poorest municipalities and those considered geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas where most maternal mortalities occur. Accordingly, the government has lined up several opportunities to accommodate the private sector’s “enthusiasm and willingness to help.”

Another speaker, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative Ugochi Daniels stated that “No Woman should die giving life. And no child should be robbed of his life because of his mother’s death.”

Daniels pointed out the three important elements that women must always have access to: contraception to avoid unwanted pregnancies, skilled birth attendant at the time of delivery, and quality and timely obstetric care. She also called on the expansion of public-private partnerships to maximize resources for exemplary practices and provide effective program models.

The summit also featured a gallery where participants were able to see the latest health statistics of 20 priority provinces with serious maternal health challenges. Also displayed were various public-private partnership models available to address the different existing health issues. Representatives of various organizations were also on hand to further explain their programs to those who signified interest.

More than the discussions, the summit was intended to get firm commitments of support for health from individuals and groups. Apart from that given by the governors, other organizations also signified their intention to do their share in improving maternal health in the country.

The USAID-Private Sector Mobilization for Family Health Project (PRISM) will give technical assistance and capability-building programs to various provinces. A Single Drop for Safe Water will provide water sanitation and hygiene governance courses; Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines will give pharmaceutical management and good governance courses while Plan Philippines, Health Development Institute, University of the Philippines-Palo and University of Makati are committed to providing mayors and barangay (village) captains governance training programs.

The 162-52 Coalition is headed by the Department of Health. Other members include League of Provinces of the Philippines, Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), ZFF, Ayala TBI/ACCESS Health Philippines, Sanofi-Adventis Philippines, Unang Yakap through World Health Organization-WPRO, United Nations Population Fund, Smart Communications Inc, Macare Medicals Inc. and Chamber of Mines.

After the summit, the coalition has been compiling and reviewing other expressed commitments submitted by participants. Meetings will soon be held to start gathering the collective efforts meant to improve maternal health.

Different programs of various groups will also be organized and matched with existing gaps found in the different provinces to achieve the necessary collective impact to speed up reforms and attain the MDG on maternal mortality.