Editorial: Focus on mothers and children during crises

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

PHILIPPINES has been assessed as “on track” in reaching the Millenium Development Goals 4 (reduce child mortality) with a child mortality ratio of 30 deaths per 1,000 births, and “making progress” on MDG 5 (improve maternal health) with a maternal mortality rate of 99 deaths per 100,000 births. Although there are still areas of inequities that have to be improved on where the poor still have higher mortality rates both for babies and mommies, of which the greatest divide is caused by the high cost of health services. But over-all, the picture was good.

That was until the super typhoons came. Now, after three major typhoons deemed the strongest before the next came, health experts are not so confident of future gains, the Save the Children’s “State of the World’s Mothers 2014: Saving mothers and children in humanitarian crisis” reported.

“The increasing frequency and severity of disasters in recent years has led some to question whether the Philippines will be able to hold on to its MDG gains. Health experts on the ground say it is still too early to draw conclusions ... But health officials do worry what might happen if typhoons the size of Haiyan and Bopha continue to pound their country. It may become increasingly challenging to keep rebuilding the health infrastructure,” reads the report, which has a full story on the humanitarian crises in the country caused by disasters from natural hazards.


From typhoon Washi to Bopha to Haiyan, health centers, hospitals, and primary health clinics have been rendered inoperational. Although these have since been rehabilitated, the cost is piling up and the facilities are not as good as before because it takes time to improve on what was left.

Maternal health and newborn care are the most compromised amid disasters, the recovery from which can take more than a year.

With this heads-up, it is but fitting to embed in any disaster risk reduction and climate change mitigation plans, programs that are focused on these concerns to ensure that the most vulnerable sectors – mothers and young children – are given the special attention they need whenever disaster strikes.

We only have to see how the children are faring at the fire evacuation centers in Davao City to understand that the squalor children have to live in and with take its toll on their health.

Among the recommended actions and policies by Save the Children are:

To build longer-term resilience to minimize the damaging effects of crises on health, which includes strengthening of community-based preparedness, early response and contingency planning. This will also entail designing social protection policies and programs aimed at addressing chronic malnutrition, and promotion of livelihoods and productive activities for both men and women, and prioritizing infant and young child feeding (IYCF) preparedness, and;

Design emergency interventions with a longer term view and the specific needs of mothers and newborns in mind. This one will mean making reproductive health care an essential component of emergency response through the Minimum Initial Service Package for Reproductive Health priority activities for care of mothers and newborns in emergencies. It is important too that maternal and newborn survival be recognized as a priority humanitarian response in any emergencies and not just a reaction to whatever situation is presented at the time of the emergency.

Emergencies are emergencies, just as disasters are disasters. Most of the time, it’s each to his own. But with the frequency of disasters and emergencies increasing, there has to be a system set in place where mothers and children, who face the highest risks and most difficult road to recovery, be given a focus so that their health are not compromised amid the flurry of activities.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 14, 2014.


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