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Quality reproductive health care for women is the very foundation where healthy families and a strong nation are built on.
This, in essence, is the message conveyed by “Investing in women: The cornerstone of quality life,” which documents good practices in reproductive health programmes in the Philippines under the UNFPA 6th Country Programme of Assistance to the government from 2005 to 2011.
The good practices highlight the key role of facility-based delivery, skilled birth attendance and family planning – the three-pronged strategy – in preventing maternal deaths and saving mothers’ lives, and the importance of collaboration among partners to create as much impact as possible on the lives of poor families.
Specific good practices identified include innovative ways to promote facility-based delivery such as the “Buntis (pregnant) Baby Bank” where couples are encouraged to save up for the birth of their baby through bamboo coin banks installed at birthing centres. Anyone – even strangers – can drop any amount into the coin bank, which will only be opened at the time of the baby’s birth. The programme not only helped couples save for a facility-based delivery, it also encouraged prenatal and postnatal visits to the health centre.
In a Muslim province, the local government aimed to recruit 100 midwives to be deployed to villages mostly located in geographically-isolated and disadvantaged areas so that pregnant women need not go to traditional birth attendants for prenatal care and childbirth.
Still in another mountainous province where women have to walk for hours to get to a birthing centre, a community health team was organized to provide a unique means of carrying pregnant women nearing their due date to a birthing centre. That is, carrying the woman by a hammock and walk for hours down mountain slopes to the nearest birthing facility where she can wait for her baby to come.
Anchored on the objectives of the International Conference on Population and Development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, the 6th Country Programme had three thematic components: reproductive health, population and development, and gender equality. It covered three of the poorest municipalities each in the provinces of Ifugao, Mountain Province and Masbate in Luzon; Bohol and Eastern Samar in Visayas; and Sultan Kudarat, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao in Mindanao. Olongapo in Central Luzon was the lone city in the Programme.
The Programme supported advocacy, training and service delivery, and ensured continuous family planning services and contraceptives supply in approximately 30 per cent of the municipalities and 50 per cent of the cities nationwide. It also emphasized on pro-poor, gender-responsive, culture-sensitive, rights-based and demand-driven objectives. In addition, conflict prevention and peace building efforts were integrated in the activities for programme sites in Mindanao.
An evaluation of the 6th Country Programme noted gains in its focus areas. Skilled birth attendance, antenatal care and facility-based deliveries increased and majority of those who accessed services and information were the poor and vulnerable women. Advocacy and policy dialogues also led to the passage of the Magna Carta of Women as well as local reproductive health codes in 60 per cent of UNFPA-assisted municipalities.
The documented stories are intended to serve as programme models to be sustained or upscaled in areas where they have been implemented or replicated in others where applicable. They are also meant to inspire communities and their leaders who believe that quality life starts with providing quality reproductive health care for women.
“This book documents how these good practices have led to tangible improvements in the lives of Filipino families. UNFPA hopes that these stories will inspire stakeholders and convey the message that with cooperation and a deep sense of commitment, the Millennium Development Goals will be achieved,” said UNFPA Country Representative Ugochi Daniels.
The publication can be downloaded here.