Rise in maternal deaths due to lack of RH policy, say RH Advocates

Following the Department of Health’s (DOH) admission of the rising maternal deaths in the country , a group of leading reproductive health (RH) advocates cited the lack of a national policy that will provide comprehensive services on RH and family planning as one of the major reasons why maternal mortality rate (MMR) has not declined in the past decade.

According to Romeo Dongeto, Executive Director of the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD), the results of the 2011 Family Health Survey (FHS) present a clear picture of the current state of our health system and underscore the grim reality that the efforts of the government have failed to meaningfully address the poor’s lack of access to health services, particularly on reproductive health.

Dongeto laments that through the years, access to family planning services remains a challenge. The government’s Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and Nutrition (MNCHN) grant program has not been very effective since it has resulted in uneven and non-standardized provision of services. The decision to provide RH and FP education and services is left to LGU officials. “It has left the impression that MCHN is optional,” explains Dongeto.

Dongeto also cited the facts that certain LGUs ban family planning services, which denied their constituents, especially poor women, of the much needed information and services on how to plan their pregnancies. The 2011 Family Health Survey showed that between 2006 and 2011, the MMR increased from 162 to 221. This means that the number of Filipino mothers who died in childbirth had risen from 162 in 2009 to 221 in 2011 per 100,000 live births. “Too close and too frequent pregnancies, coupled with lack of services are causing the deaths of poor women.” Dongeto stressed.

“We do not want to point fingers. But we are calling the leadership of Congress to pass the RH bill now. This is what we’ve got after more than 10 years of dilly-dallying on the proposed measure – an alarming increase in maternal deaths,” he said.

“We do not claim that the enactment of the RH bill will address all maternal health related issues, but a law on RH will help resolve the lack of access to RH and FP education and services among women, especially the poor. A national law will ensure that LGUs will allocate funding and will implement concrete programs on reproductive health,“ Dongeto ended.