Welcome Remarks of Secretary Enrique T. Ona during the Women Deliver Parliamentarian Forum to Expedite Achievement of MDG 4 & 5



Welcome Remarks of Secretary Enrique T. Ona during the Women Deliver Parliamentarian Forum to Expedite Achievement of MDG 4 & 5



Honorable Members of the 15th Philippine Congress,

Officials from other agencies of Government

Our development partners --- notably those working for the health and welfare of mothers and children (UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA, WorldBank, AusAid, USAID, EC)

The Members of the Steering Committee of the Women Deliver Conference,

Other distinguished guests

My colleagues and friends in the health sector and the Department of Health
Friends, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon!

    It is with distinct honor for me to welcome our honorable legislators to the Parliamentarian Forum as we hold the First Women Deliver Conference in the Philippines! I am very happy to join you and share with you the efforts of the Department of Health to expedite the achievement of Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, which are to reduce child deaths and maternal mortality as we have committed with 188 other nations during the 2000 Millennium Declaration.

   These, as we all know, are key objectives in our commitment to fight and end poverty and to make available quality health services for our mothers and children through critical reforms in the health sector. In fact, these very important goals – making motherhood safe and making childhood a healthy experience for Filipino children ---- together have been the centerpiece of action and reforms of the DOH in the last three years.

   In 2008, the DOH began with its emergency effort to save mother and newborn lives through a bold and explicit policy that mainstreamed the rights of women and children to access critical health services particularly during childbirth.  This builds on two decades of experience with the Safe Motherhood Initiative, which showed that across countries and across settings, safe professional care during delivery offers the greatest opportunity to save lives.  Taken to scale, up to ¾ of all maternal deaths can be prevented and many newborn lives will be saved just by making emergency care an absolute priority for all women during delivery (Lancet, Maternal Health Series 2006).  And yet, unhappily, this was the most neglected and inequitable component of our maternal and newborn health program.

    Today, it is said that up to 10 mothers die daily because of childbirth-related causes. Skilled attendance at birth remains a challenge and about 4 out 10 of our women still deliver at home.  The latest report of the Countdown to 2015 Committee shows a wide variation in the coverage of interventions between the rich and the poor and between urban and rural settings particularly on access to antenatal and postnatal care, reproductive health services and ceasarian sections for women needing them.  Our caesarian rates, in particular, are disturbingly below the benchmark (15% pregnancy complication rate) with only 7% of recent livebirths receiving this intervention overall.  Caesarian rates are even lower in rural areas that reflect the acute shortages and wide disparities in infrastructure and human resources in our country (Lancet, June 2010).
Ladies and gentlemen,

   The DOH Health Reforms for the Rapid Reduction of Maternal and Neonatal Mortality highlight the need to strengthen our health system to effectively deliver reproductive, maternal, neonatal and child health services within a continuum of health care. But more importantly,   it focuses on providing life-saving services in high-quality birthing facilities under skilled professional care because we fully agree that every pregnancy is at risk and that no woman should die giving life.

   That is why in the last three years, there has been an increase in both investments and momentum surrounding maternal, neonatal and child health.  We have adopted evidence-based policies and approaches as well as assured a steady and increasing flow of investments to support regions and provinces where we face the biggest challenges.  These new investments target the upgrading or establishment of strategically located health facilities all over the country that will provide emergency obstetric and neonatal care for every 125,000 population.  In 2009, close to 400 health facilities have been upgraded nationwide and these include those in the ARMM Region where we register the highest number or maternal and newborn deaths. 

    Ladies and gentlemen, the DOH is committed to put in place a health system responsive to the needs of our mothers, newborns and children. Saving women’s and children’s lives and ensuring universal access to reproductive health is a pillar of the Universal Health Care Agenda of the Aquino Government. And thus we will continue to strive to make live-saving health services available and accessible to our women and children as soon as possible.  This year, with a bigger health budget allocation at almost Php 33 Billion, we will assist more localities so that more government health centers are able to provide the mix of strategies that shall help us rapidly reduce maternal and neonatal deaths. 

    Given that resources remain a crucial gap and effective legislative and regulatory frameworks have to be put in place, you as legislators have a vital role to play in this humane objective.  You must absolutely help us build a legacy of better health for our nation where women and children need not suffer and die from preventable causes. 

    Let us have a fundamental re-thinking of the roles of our midwives and health workers and support them so that they can do what they do best --- to save lives.  Let us invest in and strengthen primary health care and deal with issues of lack of health facilities, not enough doctors and health manpower in many rural areas. 

    Several legislators and non-government organizations have put forward the One Midwife per Barangay Policy and have proposed a bigger health budget for this because currently, about half of our total 41,943 barangays have no permanent midwife (an additional Php 6B budget to cover about 60% of barangays nationwide).    Presently, there are also limitations on the interventions that a midwife can give by virtue of the Midwifery Law and these hamper the delivery of life-saving interventions for our mothers.  Recognizing that midwives are the missing link in the effective delivery of basic health services in our communities, we therefore support advocacies to upgrade their status, professionalize their practice and empower them to do their jobs.

    Today, I appeal to our legislators for a more strategic collaboration and alliance to advocate on behalf of our women and children so that we can make tangible improvements in their health lives. The imperative to strike at the root causes of maternal and newborn mortality is a big challenge that together we all must meet.  This means getting policies right, investing more for their health, and mainstreaming the rights of our women, newborn and children in all our development and poverty reduction initiatives.

Thank you and once again, welcome to everyone!