Basic health guidelines for Lumads to roll on in 5 Mindanao provinces

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/26 June) –The implementation of a new order that seeks to improve the delivery of basic health services to Lumads or indigenous peoples will be pilot tested in five areas in Mindanao this year, an official said.

On June 3, the Department of Health, Department of the Interior and Local Government and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) signed Joint Memorandum Circular 2013-01, which was introduced to the provincial government here last Monday.

The circular seeks to address inequity in the delivery of health services, discrimination and insensitivity to culture and traditions.

Eiler Fernandez, Bukidnon coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples Maternal, Neonatal, Child Health and Nutrition Project (IP MNCHN Project- Mindanao), identified the chosen pilot areas for the new guidelines as Kitaotao in Bukidnon, Dumingag in Zamboanga del Sur, Montevista in Compostella Valley, Carmen in North Cotabato and San Luis in Agusan del Sur.

The implementation will involve the Federation of Manobo Matigsalug Tribal Councils, Inc. in Bukidnon, Subanen tribe in Zamboanga del Sur, Dibabawon Mangguangan tribe in Compostella Valley, Arumanen-Manobo tribe in North Cotabato and the Banwaon and Talaandig tribes in Agusan del Sur.

The order noted that health care providers should not see traditional and cultural beliefs and practices as obstacle or barrier to health care service delivery.

Culture sensitivity in health is among the guiding principles pushed for the delivery of basic services to indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples in the country, according to the guidelines.

“It’s a breakthrough in governance for the country’s indigenous peoples,” said Ma. Shirlene Sario, NCIP-Bukidnon provincial officer.

Sario, from the Bukidnon tribe here, said the guidelines will improve the delivery of health services to Lumads, “who had been discriminated and neglected.”

The circular obliges the agencies to address problems encountered by Lumads in accessing health services.

It stressed that indigenous peoples “are considerably vulnerable to inequities in health.”

The IP MNCHN Project- Mindanao, which is helping in the implementation of the guidelines in the pilot areas, met with the Provincial Project Management Committee (PPMC) last Monday.

The PPMC will oversee the implementation of the guidelines in the province.

Fernandez told MindaNews that they have crafted an action plan– mostly on the project’s information, education, and communication campaign–that will be carried out until December.

He added they are hoping to have the project’s implementation plan included in the local government planning for 2014.

The circular also placed emphasis on research to identify indigenous traditions and practices that are “safe, beneficial, and scientifically acceptable against those which are “dangerous, detrimental and harmful.”

It also provided that health workers, policymakers, and stakeholders should undergo training or orientation on culture sensitivity.

There should be preferential access to health care for the “financially and socially disadvantaged” indigenous peoples and cultural communities, the circular said.

“They shall be a priority beneficiary in the provision of logistics, technical and financial assistance on health,” it stressed.

The circular also stressed the need to respect human rights and gender and development equality towards indigenous peoples.

Using the Geographically-Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA) Health Systems Development, DOH data showed that towns and provinces considered to have large GIDA and IP population have poor health indicators compared to those that are more accessible.

According to the circular, the “physical segregation and socio-cultural exclusion” of IPs contribute to the barriers in their access to health services.

“This contributes to IPs relying mainly on their indigenous health systems and practices, some in accordance and some contrary to safe health practices,” it added.

The three agencies in the circular also recognized that delivery of basic health services to IPs is complex, as their communities are geographically defined by ancestral domains that straddle several local government units (LGUs).

The DILG, according to the guidelines, is mandated to establish a system of cooperation among LGUs to ensure delivery of services to all.

In a press release from IP MNCHN, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said that the guidelines “bring meaning to the department’s intentions for the marginalized and underserved people.”

“This gives a guarantee that our IPs, who are generally missed out in the provision of services, will be provided health services through these special efforts,” Ona was quoted as saying. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)