Government, development partners renew pledge to reduce newborn, young child and maternal deaths in the Philippines
MANILA, 23 April 2014 — The Philippine Government, through the Department of Health (DOH), development partners, civil society and other stakeholders today reaffirmed their commitment to end preventable child deaths and eliminate maternal mortality in the country.
In his keynote message during the opening ceremonies of the Stakeholders' Forum on Enhancing Capacities to Save Mothers and Children, DOH Secretary Enrique Ona focused on renewing the promise made by 176 governments that signed the Child Survival Call to Action in June 2012 to significantly reduce maternal and child mortality rates to meet the targets set forth in the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
The Forum launched A Promise Renewed for Kalusugan Pangkalahatan, a call for action anchored on the Government's flagship health campaign for Universal Health Care, or Kalusugan Pangkalahatan (KP), with the support of UNICEF, USAID, WHO and UNFPA.
The program highlights the need to bring health and nutrition services closer to the people, particularly to mothers and children, and efficiently respond to the demand for accountability on maternal, new-born, child and family survival to be supported by health systems strengthening.
"Achieving Universal Health Care is a top priority of the Aquino Administration. The DOH is taking this course to ensure that health services and information reach all mothers and children, especially the poorest who need them the most," Sec. Ona said.
"We want this commitment echoed by local government units to make their health systems ready to protect Filipino mothers and children from succumbing to preventable causes of death and achieve a better quality of life," he added.
The two-day forum was inaugurated by Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, who is also the National President of the League of Cities of the Philippines. It tackles the current health conditions of mothers and children in the Philippines, including opportunities and directions to address the preventable causes of maternal and child deaths, as well as identify policy gaps.
"We need to address all aspects that affect a child's life and wellbeing. It is not only about health solutions. Poverty reduction, better nutrition and education, protection of children, birth registration, and achieving gender equality are interrelated important elements that help children survive and thrive," said UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander.
This is what motivates UNICEF to work with partners in the A Promise Renewed movement towards eliminating preventable maternal and child deaths. The movement, which is based on shared responsibility for child survival, has grown steadily since its global launch in 2012.
"We are witnessing commitment, and the pledge must turn into stronger action on the ground for children," Ms. Sylwander said.
"Global evidence proves that the quality of nutrition and care a child receives in infancy and childhood influences children's ability to learn and flourish in their later years," said USAID Philippines Mission Director, Gloria Steele. "The Philippines is on a high-growth trajectory and investing in its most valuable resource—its people—is key to sustaining growth and making it truly inclusive."
With the high maternal mortality ratio in the Philippines, UNFPA Country Representative Klaus Beck sees the renewed commitment by partners as a big step towards reducing preventable maternal deaths.
"This programme complements the objectives of the Reproductive Health Law, which will soon be implemented. These efforts, along with the many others being implemented by partners on the ground, put the Philippines on the right track to save the lives of mothers and their newborns," Mr. Beck said.
"The forum is an opportunity for all stakeholders to come together to support the national effort to achieve Kalusugan Pangkalahatan or Universal Health Care. We have been delighted to work in partnership with all those represented here to help improve health care for all women and children—both through strengthening the overall health system and through increasing access to the vaccinations and disease prevention measures needed to protect the most vulnerable in our society," said Dr. Julie Hall, WHO Philippines Representative. "Today, we collectively commit to taking action to improve maternal and child health."
The opportunity to end preventable child deaths has never been greater than it is today. Proven solutions and global and national efforts have saved the lives of 90 million children globally in the past 22 years.
In the Philippines, there are concrete achievements in terms of reducing under-five mortality—from 59 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 30 in 2012. Despite this decline, however, much still needs to be done. The Philippines needs to further reduce its maternal and infant mortality targets under the MDG. For 2015, these two indicators are set at 52 and 19 per 1,000 live births, respectively.
With only a few months to go before the MDG deadline in 2015, now is the time to step up efforts to make sure that more children survive past their fifth birthday, and get the chance to realise their full potential in life.
"Our promise begins today, and this promise must come with decisive action, extraordinary passion and excellence in leadership," DOH Secretary Ona said.
Globally, pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria and newborn conditions such as prematurity are still the main causes of deaths and kill about 6,000 children younger than five years every day. Typically, the poorest and most marginalized children fall victim to these easily preventable and treatable diseases.
The Forum will conclude with the signing tomorrow of the Declaration of Commitment by Government, development partners, civil society and other stakeholders to:
The Forum also launched the Kalusugan Pangkalahatan Roadshow, which will bring health services to remote and disadvantaged provinces throughout the year.