A Position Paper on the Philippines and the Road to Millennium Development Goals

In February 2012, President Aquino has reiterated the Philippines’ commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in 2015, and vowed to work double time in order to fulfill the different targets under the MDGs with only 4 years left (“Aquino:PHL… ”, 2012). The Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, is an effort launched by the United Nations in order to improve the living conditions in different nations, by seeking to battle different social and economic problems such as hunger, poverty, violence, and other deprivations.
Signed upon by all 193 UN member states in September 2000, the Millennium Development Goals comprise eight (8) development goals that each member-constituent must fulfill in 15 years, which is in 2015. The goals are: (1) eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, (2) achieving universal primary education, (3) promoting gender equality and empowering women, (4) reducing child mortality, (5) improving maternal health, (6) combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, (7) ensuring environmental sustainability, (8) developing a global partnership for development. UNDP website, retrieved August 2012. ) Aside from the perennial problems of battling poverty and eradicating different epidemics, the 5th goal, improving maternal health, remains an underlooked but equally pressing concern in the country. In a 2011 report by the Department of Health (“Philippines ranks 48… ”, 2010) , not only has the Philippines failed to improve the maternal mortality ratio (MMR), but the figure of mothers dying during childbirth has even ballooned, from 162 deaths in 100,000 live births in 2009, to 221 deaths in 100,000 live births in 2011.
The statistics is definitely alarming, especially when compared to the figures of other nations such as 110 in Thailand, 62 in Malaysia and 14 in Singapore, all in 100,000 live births. The target that we have to reach is 55-60 deaths per 100,000 live births, which is a far cry from where the Philippines stands now. According to the report from the United Nations, the causes of maternal death in the country are hemorrhage, sepsis, obstructed labour, hypertensive disorders in pregnancy, and complications of unsafe abortion, most of which are preventable with proper diagnosis and intervention (“Philippines… , 2010). Department of Health Secretary Enrique Ona expressed the same sentiment when he explained that maternal deaths could be easily prevented with “effective family planning services, antenatal care, and access to health facilities capable of handling complications” (“RH Bill key to attaining MDG – Sec Ona”, 2012). These figures should definitely be a cause for alarm. More women actually die of complications each year, which not only stalls our progress in lowering the MMR in the country, but ultimately makes any hopes of fulfilling it much bleaker.

The worsening state of maternal care in the Philippines is very telling of our healthcare system, and how ill-equipped it is to address a long-standing problem. The call for improvement in maternal health is not an arbitrary cause. In fact, the achievement of this goal is essential in order to fufill the other targets such as poverty reduction, hunger, and promoting gender equality. Ameliorating the plight of maternal health does not only mean improving the quality of life of newborns and their respective families, but by also giving mothers informed choices.
Maternal care, after all, does not begin and end with pregnancy and childbirth; it also includes taking into account the responsibility of conceiving life. Hence, as it has always been established, efficient and effective family planning is the main solution. As reiterated earlier, it is also important to note that family planning also entails the power of allowing women to make informed choices. Empowering women to decide whether or not to reproduce based on given facts would help a large deal in keeping them at bay from potential health risks, as well as rearing of children whom they are not able to provide their needs for.
The ability for health facilities to care for those mothers with complications, as well as the widespread training of more midwives to better assist in childbirth is something that the government is lagging behind to deliver. In order to impose an urgency to provide better facilities and more skilled professionals, a carefully-structured and comprehensive legislative framework is in order to be able to more effectively address the reproductive health services the Filipinos need.
The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act Bill, or House Bill 4244 is an example of an effort to bring RH services to the Filipino people. One of the bill’s mandates is to centralize the local government units to provide easy access to care and treatment for reproductive health, and make family planning supplies available for regular purchase at drugstores and hospitals. Moreover, the bill would also allow the deployment of more midwives in different regions in order to attend to more deliveries.
Especially important is the access to information for couples and individuals alike to adopt family planning, and the education on reproductive health. (HB 4244, 2011). Responsible parenthood and informed choices are key in the house bill. The bill would also spearhead a maternal death review, in order to better understand past trends in maternal mortality and to determine how to improve these conditions. Ensuring the passing of the bill is the best effort that the country can hope for in order to create significant progress in the improvement of maternal health.
However, given the time we have left, it is still unlikely that we would reach the actual target specified in the MDGs. Still, the enactment of the RH bill can promise significant change in the predicament of maternal care. Unless the government would concentrate on concrete legislative solution such as HB 4244, the 2015 goal for maternal health remains hopeless and the future of of mothers, uncertain. Sources: The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development Act of 2011, H. B. 4244, 15th Cong. 1st Sess. (2011). Ng, Jennifer. (2012, February 12). ‘Aquino: PHL to achieve MDGs in 4 years’. Business Mirror. Retrieved from http://businessmirror. com. ph/home/top-news/23195-aquino-phl-to-achieve-mdgs-in-4-years? tmpl=component&print=1&layout=default&page= Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society. (n. d. ) Philippines ranks #48 in Maternal Mortality. Retrieved from http://www. pogsinc. org/v2/index. php/component/content/article/10/58-philippines-ranks–48-in-maternal-mortality Alave, Kristine. (2012, June 18).

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