Seven-Year Program Launched To Combat Maternal, Infant Mortality In The Philippines

The Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) on Friday – in partnership with UNICEF, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), the WHO and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) – launched a seven-year program aimed at reducing maternal and infant mortality rates, the Philippine Star reports. DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said the U.N. agencies’ role will be to help with procurement, assist with the cost of service delivery and equipment, and to train, monitor and evaluate health workers. He said significant investment is required to reduce the maternal mortality rate from the current 162 per 100,000 live births to 52 per 100,000 live births in order to meet Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets by 2015. AusAID gave about $4.4 million for the project, which will be implemented in two phases focusing on different areas where maternal mortality rates are the highest, according to Duque (Flores, 9/19).

Also on Friday, representatives from the U.N. agencies warned that without major efforts, the country is unlikely to reach its MDG for reducing maternal mortality, Xinhua/Philippine Star writes. “It is quite a big reduction to reach the target and because there are only six years left, we are very concerned,” said Vanessa Tobin, UNICEF and the WHO’s country representative.

Suneeta Mukherjee, the UNFPA country representative, “said most maternal deaths occurred in the Philippines as mothers delivered their babies without the presence of professional midwives and medical facilities at hand to prevent a crisis,” according to Xinhua/Philippine Star. “Skilled and professional delivery can save up to 40 percent of maternal deaths, and planned pregnancy can save another 40 percent ” Mukherjee said, adding that “the target can be achieved” with the help of “these two major interventions” (9/19). 

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