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Gender equality, health care for moms pushed

The Philippine representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has called for increased gender equality and adequate reproductive health care for mothers across the country.

In her Mother's Day message, UNFPA country representative Dr. Leila Joudane said there was a "significant number" of women who do not get the medical support that they need, with some of them not receiving any crucial medical assistance that leads to maternal mortality, or death of women while giving birth or during pregnancy.

She also noted that there had been an increase in maternal deaths across the Philippines over the past two years, from 1,458 deaths in 2019 to 2,478 deaths in 2021, based on data by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

"That is around 6 to 7 Filipino women dying daily due to childbirth. During emergencies, when access to maternal health services is disrupted, more women die during pregnancy and childbirth," Joudane said in a statement.

Among the top five causes of maternal deaths were pregnancy complications, childbirth and puerperium, eclampsia, pre-eclampsia and hemorrhage.

"Many of these deaths are preventable if only there were accessible proper medical interventions and adequate health care systems that are also resilient to emergencies," Joudane said.

The reasons why women die during childbirth, Joudane said, were reproductive and sexual health services being unavailable, inaccessible, unaffordable or of poor quality.

She also lamented the scarcity of human resources such as health workers who give sexual and reproductive health information and services. For every 1,300 women and girls in reproductive age, there is only one public health midwife.

"In the Philippines, 14 percent of pregnant women do not get regular checkups and the other necessary medical care that they need during their pregnancy. One in 10 women does not give birth in health facilities or receive assistance from skilled health care personnel during childbirth," Joudane said.

The high costs of maternal health care also affect the accessibility of maternal and child health, as according to a 2021 study, Filipinos in rural areas pay more for health care services and medicines compared to those living in urban areas and those with better income.

As per a global study commissioned by the UNFPA and the Burnet Institute, every dollar invested on family planning services globally gains $8, while in the Philippines, the gains are higher at $18.

"This is on top of the hundreds of thousands of mothers' and children's lives saved," Joudane said.

She said that preventable maternal mortality could be addressed by making the world a more gender-equal place, but she said that "this is easier said than done," and urged recognition of the role of gender inequality as the root of other issues.

"Gender inequality is what keeps women out of the workforce and schools, vulnerable to conflict and violence, and denies them the right to make decisions about their own bodies and health. And it's what makes pregnancy a dangerous endeavor, one which hundreds of thousands of women do not survive," Joudane said.

Joudane urged everyone to uphold the right of all people, especially mothers, to "reach the highest possible standard of health. Timely health care for pregnant women can make the difference between life and death. No woman should die giving life."

Source: Manila Times

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