DOH-11 backs RH bill to hit MDG on maternal death rate

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 11 Aug)—The passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill will help achieved the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to reduce the maternal mortality rate in the country, Abdullah Dumama, Jr., Department of Health (DOH) Region 11 director, said yesterday.

He noted that Davao region’s maternal mortality rate, at 109 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2011, remains far from hitting the target of 52 deaths per 100,000 births by 2015.

“I hope the RH bill will be passed immediately because we really need it now,” said Dumama, noting that there are only three years left to reach the MDG target to reduce the maternal death rate.

Stressing that there were mothers who wanted to have few kids but do not know where to access services, Dumama said the Health department “has made such services accessible especially to women from identified geographically isolated and depressed areas.”

For one, the DOH-11 has partnered with local government units and non-government organizations in providing “half way houses” for laboring women who have high risk to have a Caesarian section or to have a hemorrhage.

Three months ago, he said two half way houses were established in Sulop and Digos City in Davao del Sur that will be replicated in other provinces when proven effective after six months, noting that this is also being done in three other regions.

Dumama said this effort will hopefully address the high maternal mortality rate in the region, adding that this will help curb the reliance of women’s prenatal health and birthing to “hilot” or the traditional birth attendants.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona said earlier that among the MDGs, the reduction of maternal mortality by three-fourths has the least progress in the country, as well as providing universal access to reproductive health.

It was recently reported that the maternal mortality rate nationwide has increased to 221 per 100,000 live births in 2011 from 162 per 100,000 live births in 2009.

This translates to about 12 women dying each day while giving birth.

Most of them were poor women based on the 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey, according to the Center for Women’s Resources.

The National Statistical Coordination Board reported last year that Davao region lagged eight years in its MDG target, citing that achieving universal access to reproductive health by immunizing mothers with tetanus toxoid plus has low implementation.

The RH bill or House Bill 4244, principally authored by the Gabriela Women’s Partylist, seeks to provide “a comprehensive policy on responsible parenthood, reproductive health and population and development.”

Last August 6, the House of Representatives voted for the termination of debates on the RH bill prior to the period of amendments that will start on August 13.

Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan described the RH bill as a “comprehensive and genuine health bill that is pro-women and pro-poor as it insists that it is the government’s responsibility and accountability to provide services to all.”

Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio earlier backed the controversial RH bill, noting that the city had passed an RH ordinance when she was still the vice mayor.

The mayor was referring to Ordinance No. 0335-10 Series of 2010 or the Ordinance Creating the Women Health Care Clinic of Davao City, authored by former councilor Angela Librado.

Councilor Leah Librado, chair of the committee on women, children and family relations, said in an earlier privilege speech that she supports a comprehensive reproductive health bill that will cover all levels of health care delivery and not just limited to child bearing and family planning alone.

“However, the consolidated RH bill in question, which earned the support of no less than the President, is totally intent on the population aspect and the primary component of providing reproductive health care “from womb to tomb” has totally taken the backseat,” she said.

Ilagan said that population is not the reason of poverty in the country but the unequal distribution of resources, unemployment, and corruption in government, among others. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/MindaNews)