Protecting our mothers

Former Sen. Edgardo J. Angara

Column-Sen Edgardo Angara photo

Studies show that the Philippines is not one of the best places to be a mother. The 2013 State of the World’s Mothers report, which looked into factors like maternal health, placed the Philippines 106th out of 176 countries—a ranking that puts us tied with Indonesia and at the bottom half of the nine ASEAN countries included (Brunei Darussalam was not listed).

Because our health system remains burdened by lack of trained personnel, inadequate facilities, and a fertility rate that is the highest in ASEAN, our mothers face risky pregnancies.

The 2011 Family Health Survey reported that 221 out of 100,000 mothers died during childbirth, much higher than the 162 out of 100,000 registered in 2006. In 2012, a Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) survey found that one in every four pregnant women is considered nutritionally-at-risk.

Our children are at great peril. Last year, UNICEF ranked the Philippines fifth in the world for having the most cases of low birth weight infants. As of 2011, up to one-third of our children under five years old were stunted, facing long-term risk of contracting even more health problems in their adulthood.

Ensuring that our mothers are healthy and safe should be a national priority. With the Supreme Court upholding the constitutionality of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act (R.A. 10354), government should provide more reproductive health services, especially to the country’s poor, and combat preventable deaths like maternal mortality.

The Philippines is considered among the world’s most advanced in gender equality, ranking fifth out of 136 countries in the 2013 Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum (WEF). We are the only country in the Asia-Pacific region to have fully closed gender gaps in areas such as healthy life expectancies, literacy, and basic and secondary enrolment rates. This makes it more appalling that in our country, many mothers do not have adequate access to maternal healthcare.

Protecting our mothers

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VitalSigns Issue 63 Vol. 3, May 1-31, 2014