Davao Today

Davao City — The health department hopes to decrease by 75 percent the number of mothers who die during childbirth by increasing its pool of skilled birth attendants in the region.

The Department of Health (DOH) has secured national funding for the Maternal Newborn, Child Health and Nutrition (MNCHN), a strategy to address the high rates of maternal mortality.

Acording to Divine Hilario, health education and promotion officer of the DOH health advocacy cluster, the scheme includes child birth training and ensuring the presence of skilled attendants during childbirth. DOH also encouraged expectant mothers to enroll in Philhealth.

The number of mothers who died during childbirth reached 105 per 100,000 live births in 2008, slightly lower than the 111 in 2002 but far from the regional target of 25 set by the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). The 2008 figures are, in fact, more than the overall national target of 80 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Hilario said that expectant mothers preference for traditional birth attendants or hilot has been mainly responsible for these high numbers. However, she admitted that mothers cannot help but go to the hilot because hospitals are only available in the metropolitan areas and can be costly. She said the MNCHN hopes to respond to these concerns of pregnant women.

The MNCHN training will enhance regular health professionals capacity to deal with complications arising from childbirth, while Philhealth membership will help families cope with the high cost of hospital fees.

During an earlier press conference, DOH regional director Teogenes Baluma announced that they strictly prohibit those without medical training, particularly the hilot, to handle deliveries. “The hilots who were trained are tapped as partners in taking care of pregnant women in the barrio. However, deliveries will be handled by skilled health professionals,” Baluma said.

Hilario said that in 2002, the health department had a program to train hilots and raise their capacity in caring for mother and child. However, DOH later found that the hilots would return to their traditional ways once they returned to the barrios. That’s why the DOH opted to train more community midwives instead. She said they’ve also given training to community doctors and nurses who might have inadequate knowledge on birth complications.

But Baluma admitted that the regional target of 25 deaths per 100,000 live births will be difficult to achieve.

An official from the Population Commission present during the DOH presentation on MDGs said that aside from the lack of facilities and childbirth personnel, expectant mothers are also at risk because of the absence prenatal check-ups. Both the mother and the birth attendant are usually unprepared for problems that arise during delivery. Mothers from far-flung areas also have to contend the lack of regular transportation.

Baluma said the DOH will give the same kind of attention to all women, irregardless of the age of the mothers. He said that before, only pregnancies of older women were considered high risk, hence, subjected to special care. Now, the MNHCN will see to it that every pregnancy is adequately managed by skilled health professionals and every delivery is done in places with adequate health facilities. DOH will also find ways for proper postpartum and post natal care.

Baluma said DOH prioritized the construction of additional health facilities in far-flung areas this year.

In 2007, only 57 per cent of the 1,158 barangays in the region had barangay health centers, most of which needed upgrading. (With reports from PIA XI)

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