I previously wrote about how an estimated ten to twelve women in the Philippines die everyday due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. So it made me happy to read that in Carmen, a small town in the central Philippine province of Bohol, there has only been one maternal death in the past five years.
Via the PCIJ blog, Avigail M. Olarte reports on how this was brought about:
These days, aside from the main one in the town center, five of Carmen’s barangays have birthing facilities. There are no doctors in these centers, but a midwife is usually on call, along with an army of barangay health workers; should any complications arise, an ambulance (Carmen has six) can be dispatched to bring the pregnant woman to the [reproductive health unit]…
Carmen is also one of only three towns in Bohol that have adopted a Reproductive Health Care Code [that mandates] among others, that women must have access to safe and quality reproductive healthcare services and that there should be a continuous planning, implementation, and monitoring of effective reproductive-health programs…
These facilities also have “Family Planning Rooms” where couples could consult with physicians about contraception and family planning. Barangays have a “Pop Shops” where people could buy condoms and pills.
Conservative critics, including members of the church, lambaste reproductive health advocates as “devils.” Shockingly, they don’t recognize how the virtual elimination of maternal deaths is actually, you know, good news.
But this is a good news post for once, so I will be thankful for the advocacy and hard work of dedicated activists, like Dr. Josephine Jabonillo, Carmen’s municipal health officer, and Nathaniel Binlod, a two-term town councilor and chairperson of the town’s health committee who almost lost the 2007 elections for his support of reproductive health.
The maternal health statistics in Carmen are testament to the far-reaching effects of grassroots action. It gives me hope for other grassroots actions, such the lawsuit brought group of urban poor women against the Manila city government for banning contraception in government clinics.