Press Release
March 6, 2016

Women's dignity kits now mandatory in evac centers;
Recto calls for early purchase

The distribution of women's "dignity kits" during disasters and emergencies is now mandatory, pursuant to a Department of Health (DOH) order released last month, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said today.

The kit must contain 22 items of women's personal care, including, bath soap, laundry soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, panties, brassiere, sanitary napkins, shampoo, face towel, bath towel, slippers, tissue roll, cotton balls, and a malong.

Also in the kit are a pail, whistle, solar lamp with charger, alcohol, dipper, comb, and chamber pot.

Pregnant women will receive maternity pads, baby rubber mats, three sets of baby clothes, baby blanket, baby mittens, bonnets and socks.

But for these kits to be "prepositioned" in the field, government must release funds for their purchase, which, according to Recto can be taken from the P38.9 billion Calamity Fund this year.

The said fund, officially known as National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) Fund, can be used for "pre-disaster" activities, "which include stockpiling ready-to-deploy emergency food, medicine and other relief goods."

"Ayaw natin na kung kailan tapos na ang emergency ay saka lang bibilhin ang mga ito, " Recto said, noting that government procurement practices "are like that of a person who is still haggling for the price of a water hose when his neighbor's house is already on fire."

He said early procurement is justified because the contents of the "dignity kits are not perishable, and with the frequency of disasters hitting us, there's small chance that they'll be kept in storage for years."

Recto issued the call after Health Secretary Janette-Loreto Garin "commendably issued" DOH Administrative Order (AO) 2016-05 on Feb. 26, 2016, detailing the national policy on the Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP) for women's health in health emergencies and disasters.

The order carried out mandates in Republic Act (RA) 9170, or the Magna Carta for Women, and in RA 10354, or the Responsible and Reproductive Health Law, that timely comprehensive health services must be extended to women during emergencies.

RA 10354 specifically requires that the MISP during emergencies must include the distribution of maternal, neonatal and reproductive health care kits.

Under Garin's AO, the local governments assume the lead role in providing MISP and women's dignity kits during calamities.

The DOH through its Health Emergency Management Bureau is also tasked to deploy women's kits.

Recto, however, said the national government must assume a greater role in providing these kits because local government units (LGUs) of disaster-hit areas bear the double burden of being both victim and first responder.

"Oftentimes, local resources, scarce from the onset, are destroyed if not affected by the calamity. So outside help is needed. Fresh supplies and men must be brought in, including women's kits," said Recto.

Recto praised Garin and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Dinky Soliman for instituting the policy that maternal and neonatal care be given proper attention in crisis situations.

Recto noted that Garin's order requires "evacuation areas and refugee centers be equipped to respond to women's needs and child care, including nutrition service for newborns."

Recto called for earmarking of MISP requirements in the national budget "so we can pinpoint actual funds committed."

"If line-itemization is the best form of budgeting there is, then perhaps we can start in the Calamity Fund, by setting the amounts for this purpose. At the very least, this must be included in an agency's performance guarantees," he said.

Recto was referring to the "countable specified outcomes" attached to an agency's spending which is now a feature of the General Appropriations Act.

"Sa proposed budget siguro ng DOH at ng DSWD para sa 2017 na ipapadala sa Kongreso ngayong Hulyo, dapat mag-lista ng mga bagay at mga target na ayuda para sa mga bata at kababaihan," Recto said.

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