EU-funded program aims to reduce maternal deaths in ARMM

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/10 October) – The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is a recipient of a five-year program on reproductive health that aims to bring down the number of maternal deaths, an official said.

Dr. Tato Usman, administrating officer of Department of Health-ARMM, said “Improving Availability of Reproductive Health Services” (ARCHES) is funded by the European Union and implemented from October 2014 to December 2019.

Speaking in a forum on reproductive health in Davao Tuesday, Usman said ARCHES has a budget of 4.59-million euro and focuses on providing reproductive health services to women and young people.

“Improving the availability and access to basic SRH (sexual and reproductive health) services anywhere in ARMM will benefit the most vulnerable people with the least access to reproductive health in the country,” a project briefer said.

Based on the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey, the region ranked last in terms of sexual and reproductive health services.

The study cited that among married women aged 15 to 49 years old, only 15.3 percent of them are using any modern contraceptive methods, way below the national average of 37.6 percent.

The region scored the lowest in terms of antenatal care at 52.8 percent and 20.4 percent of births delivered by health professionals as against the national averages of 95.4 percent and 72.8 percent, respectively.

The ARMM comprises the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

The first phase of the program covers 14 municipalities and the second phase 15 municipalities in the ARMM.

The project is a joint undertaking of Oxfam-UK and Likhaan Center for Women’s Health and will be implemented with Al Mujadilah Development Foundation Inc. for Lanao del Sur area, Pinay Kilos for Sulu and Basilan provinces, Tarbilang Foundation, for Tawi-Tawi, and United Youth of the Provinces-Women for Maguindanao.

Dr. Junice Demetrio-Melgar, executive director of Likhaan Center for Women’s Health, said sexual and reproductive health is a fundamental human right.

“Regardless of one’s economic status, age, or place of residence, every woman has the right to informed choice in family planning and access to SRH services,” she said.

“If a woman from rich subdivisions in Metro Manila can avail of such information and services, anytime she needs it, why can’t a woman from anywhere in ARMM enjoy the same right?” she added. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)