A Promise for the children of the Philippines

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On April 24 2014, with support from UNICEF and other UN partners, the Philippine Government launched “A Promise Renewed for Kalusugan Pangkalahatan [Universal Health Care]”, a programme for action to expand access to health and nutrition services for mothers and children, and respond to demand for accountability around maternal, newborn, child and family survival.

Together with development partners, civil society and other stakeholders, the Government of the Philippines signed a Declaration of Commitment, promising to take action to:

  • Ensure that every mother and child can access health services for a better quality of life;
  • Continuously build health service providers’ technical knowledge and skills to help them save the lives of mothers and children;
  • Sustain dialogue among all partners to address factors hindering delivery of better health services;
  • Promote public-private and national-local partnerships and pool resources to ensure that family planning and health projects are properly funded; and
  • Document and replicate local good practices and projects across the Philippines, as well as in other countries.

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Speaking at the Launch Forum, Department of Health Secretary Enrique Ona emphasised the importance placed on improving access to services for all members of society. “Achieving Universal Health Care is a top priority of the Aquino Administration,” said Ona. “The DOH is taking this course to ensure that health services and information reach all mothers and children, especially the poorest who need them the most.”

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“We want this commitment echoed by local government units to make their health systems ready to protect Filipino mothers and children from succumbing to preventable causes of death and achieve a better quality of life,” he added.

The two-day forum was inaugurated by Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, who is also the National President of the League of Cities of the Philippines. The Forum sought to develop strategies to address the health-related challenges facing mothers and children in the Philippines, and to identify effective approaches to addressing preventable causes of maternal and child deaths, including through strengthening relevant policies.

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Partner agencies supporting the programme for action were represented at the Forum by Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Philippines Representative; Gloria Steele, USAID Mission Director; Klaus Beck, UNFPA Country Representative; and Dr. Julie Hall, WHO Country Representative.

“We need to address all aspects that affect a child’s life and wellbeing. It is not only about health solutions. Poverty reduction, better nutrition and education, protection of children, birth registration, and achieving gender equality are interrelated important elements that help children survive and thrive,” said UNICEF Philippines Representative, Lotta Sylwander.

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“This is what motivates UNICEF to work with partners under the banner of the ‘A Promise Renewed’ movement towards eliminating preventable maternal and child deaths. The movement, which is based on shared responsibility for child survival, has grown steadily since its global launch in 2012.”

“We are witnessing commitment, and the pledge must turn into stronger action on the ground for children,” Ms. Sylwander said.

“Global evidence proves that the quality of nutrition and care a child receives in infancy and childhood influences children’s ability to learn and flourish in their later years,” said USAID Philippines Mission Director, Gloria Steele. “The Philippines is on a high-growth trajectory and investing in its most valuable resource—its people—is key to sustaining growth and making it truly inclusive.”

Given the Philippines’ high levels of maternal mortality, UNFPA Country Representative Klaus Beck emphasized the importance of the renewed commitment as a major step forwards toward the goal of ending preventable maternal deaths.

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“This programme complements the objectives of the Reproductive Health Law, which will soon be implemented. These efforts, along with the many others being implemented by partners on the ground, put the Philippines on the right track to save the lives of mothers and their newborns,” Mr. Beck said.

“The forum is an opportunity for all stakeholders to come together to support the national effort to achieve Kalusugan Pangkalahatan or ‘Universal Health Care’. We have been delighted to work in partnership with all those represented here to help improve health care for all women and children—both through strengthening the overall health system and through increasing access to the vaccinations and disease prevention measures needed to protect the most vulnerable in our society,” said Dr. Julie Hall, WHO Philippines Representative. “Today, we collectively commit to taking action to improve maternal and child health.”

The opportunity to end preventable child deaths has never been greater than it is today. Proven solutions and global and national efforts have saved the lives of 90 million children globally in the past 22 years.

The Philippines hase seen impressive achievements in terms of reducing under-five mortality – cutting the level of mortality from 59 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 30 in 2012. Despite this decline, however, much needs to be done. If it is to meet the MDG targets, the Philippines needs to further reduce its maternal and infant mortality rates to 52 per 100,000 and 19 per 1,000 live births, respectively.

Our promise begins today, and this promise must come with decisive action, extraordinary passion and excellence in leadership,” DOH Secretary Ona said.

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