Saving present and future generations-A A +A
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
FLEUR was 34 when she was befriended by a Manila acquaintance of her cousin. After months of texting, her friend visited her in Cebu. They became intimate. When she missed her period, she considered how to tell her household employer and how she would support her child after she quit her job. She also weighed between joining her partner in Manila or returning to her family in the province.
When she eventually knew Fleur's condition, her employer said taking care of her health and her baby's took precedence over other plans.
Catholic leaders recently called for the faithful to "take to the streets" in renewed opposition to the reproductive health (RH) bill. Last July 23, after President Benigno Aquino III mentioned "responsible parenthood" in his third State of the Nation Address (Sona), opposing camps are still debating whether this reference could be interpreted as an endorsement of the controversial bill.
Yet, other concerns may be more pressing than the tug-of-war splitting the nation.
A woman dies from childbirth every minute. This means that around the world each year, more than half a million women die while giving birth, with the majority dying in Third World countries.
These facts are according to the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), which sets by 2015 the reduction of maternal mortality deaths by three-quarters. A signatory, the Philippines commits, along with 146 other nations, to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
In its June 20 editorial, Sun.Star Davao cited the National Statistics Office's findings in its 2011 Family Health Survey that "maternal mortality rate went up to 221 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010, from 162 deaths in 2006." The country targets to achieve its MDG goal to reduce maternal death to 54 by 2015, or three years from now.
The chances of Cebu achieving the 80 percent reduction of maternal mortalities may be better, with Central Visayas now reporting only 56 deaths per 100,000 live births. Dr. Susana Madarieta, Department of Health (DOH) 7 director, was quoted in a Feb. 28 article uploaded on mb.com.ph.
Madarieta's optimism rested on the fielding of community health teams (CHTs) that should ideally visit every family in communities to provide services under the government's Universal Health Care policy.
Information is the first of the crucial frontline services to promote the welfare of women.
Mothers die from hemorrhage, infection, obstructed labor, hypertensive disorders in pregnancy, and complications of unsafe abortion, according to the Unicef. Furthermore, women during childbirth may suffer from injuries to pelvic muscles, organs or the spinal cord, which often go untreated and cause lifelong suffering and disability.
The Unicef established that at least 20 percent of diseases afflicting children below the age of five is due to poor maternal health and nutrition, as well as quality of care at delivery and during the newborn period. Every year, eight million babies die before or during delivery or in the first week of life.
Mothers' mortality from HIV and HIV transmission from mother to child are growing threats.
More than half a million maternal deaths mean children are left motherless. "These children are 10 times more likely to die within two years of their mothers' death," says the Unicef.
Most of these birth-related tragedies can be prevented.
Sufficient care during pregnancy and delivery saves women and their children. RH bill advocates, including the DOH, argue that disseminating information and giving women and couples better opportunities for informed choice can reduce disabilities and mortalities in childbirth.
Yet, these are not the only life-saving measures. Based on worldwide trends, keeping children in school, which would give girls higher aspirations and a better preparation for careers and other attainments, is also effective in prolonging female life expectancies.
Such measures entail decisions that should be made by children and their parents. Schools, religious and community leaders can participate in dialogues, counseling and mentoring that help teens understand their sexuality, the consequences of early and unwanted pregnancy, and the responsibilities of parenthood.
By no means easy, these challenges that will save mothers and present and future generations are worth the resources, efforts and cooperation of all stakeholders.
Certainly, this undertaking is more productive than the protracted public quarreling over the RH bill. (Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 31, 2012.