Press Release
March 11, 2016

On Women's Month

On Women's Month, presidential candidate Miriam Defensor Santiago vowed to take better care of Filipino mothers and infants by addressing unequal access to health services among women of different social classes.

Santiago, author of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law, said that delayed implementation of the law passed in 2012 cripples the government in addressing the alarming maternal and infant mortality rates in the country.

"The total fertility rate has been going down, but poor women are still having twice as many children as they desire. Moreover, a rising trend in teenage pregnancy and delivery has been observed," the senator said.

These two trends "lead to an increase in maternal deaths, and are strongly associated with inadequate access to family planning information, goods, and services among poor and young women," Santiago added.

As of 2012, the government reported that some 221 mothers die per 100,000 live births in the Philippines, a far cry from the target of 52 mothers dying per 100,000 live births set by the international community, and even higher than the baseline of 192 mothers dying per 100,000 live births in 1990.

Santiago claimed that the maternal health index is an indicator that thoroughly demonstrates the wide gaps in healthcare and the remarkable inequality among women of differing socio-economic classes.

"Poor mothers in rural communities are more than five times as likely to die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. This reflects the inability of poor women to access family planning--something that rich women take as a given," she said.

The senator added that the poor state of maternal health is linked to high infant and under-five mortality. As of 2012, the Philippines posted a ratio of 24 infants dying per 1,000 live births. Some 75,000 children also die before their fifth birthday.

Besides fully implementing the RH Law, Santiago promised that her administration will veer away from disease-driven initiatives and focus on strengthening health systems to improve maternal and child health. "A health system is weak if it fails to protect women and children," she said.

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