Philippines program to provide 600,000 women with maternal health services

San Pablo City, Philippines [October 17] — At an event on October 17th in the Philippines, CARD Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI), the Microcredit Summit Campaign, and Freedom from Hunger launched a joint program with the aim to decrease the high maternal mortality rate in the Philippines, thus helping to address the country’s poor performance on UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5.

With support from Johnson & Johnson, “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies: Partnering to improve maternal health in the Philippines” will reach more than 600,000 women microfinance clients by the end of 2015 by leveraging the reach of the microfinance sector to deliver vital health education and services to very poor women and their families. (Click here to learn more about the program.)

The program kicked off with 1,732 pregnant and lactating women attending a two-day community health fair in Palawan October 18th and 19th. Microfinance clients from ASA Philippines and CARD MRI as well as women from the local community came for routine gynecological examinations and ultrasounds for pregnant women, with results provided immediately.

Cecilia, a CARD MRI client who received a loan to open a sari sari (or convenience) store after her husband had kidney failure, and her daughter, Joy Ann, came from the barangay (or village) of Irawan Purokfreedom for their health checkups. This health fair was Cecilia’s first time ever getting a routine gynecological exam from an OB-GYN. Four general practitioners, thirteen OB-GYNs, and one sonologist provided their services free of charge. The event is the first of five community-based “Healthy Mother, Healthy Baby” health fairs planned for the project.

October 17th was also the World Day for Overcoming Extreme Poverty, and the theme for 2014 is “Leave No One Behind: Think, Decide and Act Together Against Extreme Poverty.” At the launch event, Larry Reed, director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign, delivered a keynote message explaining that, in order to end extreme poverty, the system has to change. He said, “Part of the system that needs to be changed is the way that different types of social programs work in isolation from one another…As a result, we often miss the interrelationships between the challenges we face. When instead we work together on the goal of eliminating extreme poverty and its many pernicious effects, we quickly see how we need to coordinate our efforts to have maximum impact.”

Dr. Jaime Aristotle B. Alip, the founder and managing director of CARD MRI, said during the launch, “We are thankful for this partnership with Freedom from Hunger and the Microcredit Summit Campaign. With this partnership, we hope that we will be able to reach more socially and economically challenged Filipinos, especially those in their reproductive age. We hope that maternal mortality among CARD members will significantly decrease due to this partnership.”

Economic growth in the Philippines has been very strong over the past 20 years—growing an average of more than 5 percent per year for the last 10 years according to the “Philippines Fifth Progress Report on the MDGs”—and the nation has improved in many key indicators such as life expectancy, access to education, and infant mortality. Delays in accessing medical care is a key bottleneck in achieving MDG 5, and with just under 500 days left, the timing for this collaboration to educate about and expand access to health services is critical.

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