Mother and child healthcare in the Philippines is improving

Healthcare access is limited for many mothers and children in politically and economically unstable areas of the Philippines, like Sarangani, where Rowena lives. World Vision has been working with the local health office there to train health workers and provide medical equipment that helps to improve maternal and child care.

Story and photos by Crislyn Felisilda. Edited by Chris Clouzet, World Vision U.S.
Published August 11, 2011 at 12:00am PDT

A loving mother of five, Rowena, 40, lives in Sarangani, an area in the Philippines where women commonly give birth to more than 10 children. This area also has a history of poor maternal and child care, meaning that some of the women and children do not survive childbirth.

Over the years, World Vision has partnered with the local health office to conduct training for mothers and provide medical equipment for the health facilities. These measures have helped to improve health awareness among mothers and increase the number of healthy children born in their communities.

Birth — and death

Rowena gave birth to her five children at home through the help of a village healer. She recalls that her first delivery was difficult, painful, and bloody. Her second delivery was complicated. The child, Sitti Hayla, now 15, almost died.

“I was crying aloud with fear of losing her,” Rowena says. “Thank God she survived.”

The village healer used leaves and other herbal mixes as a supplement to her delivery. “It’s a cultural thing, but I realized that it isn’t safe,” Rowena says. “I'm thankful my Sitti and the rest of my kids still made it.”

Two years ago, Rowena heard the loud cries of a friend who was giving birth. She also witnessed that friend’s death.

A history of poor maternal and child care

“Before, most pregnant women in our community did not visit the health center for prenatal or postnatal care,” Rowena says. “Moreover, when their children got sick, they only resorted to self-medication.” She says this lack of prenatal care played a role in the children’s poor health.

As she became more aware herself, Rowena became an active advocate in recognizing the importance of providing care for women and children.

Jennifer Sapuiz, a World Vision health development staff member, explains the issue. “Inadequate primary healthcare and insufficient health services, coupled with socio-economic instability in poor regions…all contribute to this bleak outlook for mothers and their infants,” she says.

“[A] low level of competence among local health practitioners, as well as a lack of community awareness on health issues, result in significant complications of maternal and child health,” Jennifer adds.

Empowering community health workers

World Vision is partnering with the local health office to conduct training to improve maternal and child healthcare, and to facilitate behavior change among mothers by providing health services at the village health centers.

The training focuses on community awareness for the prevention of maternal, newborn, and infant illnesses, improvement of community-based response, and an increase in the quality of services through capacity-building of first-level health providers.

World Vision also distributed pediatric equipment to the health facilities working on maternal and child health in Sarangani.

“The equipment that [was] provided by World Vision helped to reinforce health facilities, especially those located in rural areas, as they experience shortages of all types of equipment,” says Jennifer.

Sharing the lessons

Rowena herself has become a World Vision community volunteer, regularly monitoring the children in her community. She has also become an advocate of providing care for women and children. Every week, Rowena gathers the mothers to discuss maternal and child care.

“More than half of the pregnant women in our community regularly attend ‘buntis’ [pregnant] class,” says Rowena. “More mothers deliver babies in the health centers now.” Jennifer says the number of women doing this is about 80 percent.

Rowena is thankful that Sitti Hanina, 14, her third child, became sponsored.Rowena also discovered that the mothers-in-law of young women benefit from effective postnatal counseling sessions. “Once they understand the benefits, they encourage their daughters to visit the clinic,” she says. “This way, we reach more women.”

“Parents should know the nitty-gritty of taking care of themselves, especially their children,” Rowena adds. She says this helps avoid the problems they had before, like sick parents unable to support their children, and sick children missing school and falling behind.

‘World Vision is a big blessing’

Rowena stays very busy caring for her family and household, and is determined to provide for her children. She believes that education is their only antidote to poverty.

Rowena is thankful that her third child, Sitti Hanina, 14, has become a World Vision sponsored child — something that is helping out the whole family. Her husband, Nazer, earns the equivalent of about $2-3 a day, which often isn’t enough. “World Vision is a big blessing to my family,” says Rowena.

Rowena gives back by actively serving others and ensuring that proper health and nutritional practices offer benefits to mothers and their children.

“We’re grateful for the training and support that World Vision provided,” she says. “We enjoy listening to the cries of newborn babies, especially because now these are healthy cries. They are cries of life.”

Four ways you can help

In prayer, lift up volunteer healthcare workers like Rowena. Pray for the mothers and children who still don’t have access to good prenatal and postnatal care.

Give a one-time gift of a new mother and baby kit that provides essential supplies mothers need in order to care for their newborn children.

Sponsor a child today. Your support for a boy or girl in need will also benefit an entire family and community, expanding access to essentials like healthcare and support for new and expectant mothers.

Advocate for improved maternal and child healthcare. Ask your members of Congress to oppose major cuts to the International Affairs budget, which provides critical, life-saving care to combat child mortality, hunger and malnutrition, and diseases. Devastating and disproportionate cuts have been proposed that literally threaten lives of the poor and vulnerable, especially children. The International Affairs budget makes up just 1.4 percent of the federal budget.