Commenting on the Reproductive Health Law, Karen Culver, Country Director for Merlin in the Philippines, said: “In December we celebrated a huge victory for sexual and reproductive health rights. However, even after being signed into law, the expansion of reproductive health and family planning services is now at serious risk of being delayed yet again.
“In the Philippines we lose 14 to 15 mothers a day due to pregnancy-related complications*, but with this law, we are closer than ever before to being able to provide a low-cost solution which will directly save the lives of women and their babies whose loss to their families and communities cannot be quantified.
“Although we firmly believe that pregnancy is a normal, healthy state which many women aspire to at some point in their lives, it also carries with it serious risks of death and disability for both mothers and their babies.
“Across the globe, a third of pregnancy-related deaths could be avoided if family planning were available to all women who need it**. We cannot afford to deny women this choice when every two minutes, a woman dies somewhere in the world as a result of pregnancy or childbirth***.”
* Philippines National Statistics Office/UN Population Division
** World Health Organisation
*** World Health Organisation
Notes to editors
A national reproductive health bill that would guarantee universal access to family planning and reproductive health services has been waiting to be enacted since 1998. In 2000, the city of Manila banned the provision of family planning services in its own public health facilities. In June 2012 the Department of Health announced that the estimated maternal mortality rate had increased by more than 35% to 221 per 100,000 live births in 2011 (from 162 in 2009).
Unless there is fundamental change the Philippines is extremely unlikely to reach its Millennium Development Goals relating to universal access to reproductive health services and the reduction of maternal mortality.
Merlin has been in the Philippines since 2009 and is currently focusing on improving access to family planning for women and families in the urban slums of Manila – aiming to reach an estimated 115,000 beneficiaries with funding from the European Union and in partnership with the national NGO Likhaan. Globally, Merlin has the strategic aim of providing voluntary family planning to 1.5 million women by 2015, empowering women with the choice of the number and timings of their pregnancies. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) approximately 287,000 women die each year due to pregnancy-related complications.
Merlin is an international health charity, saving lives in the world’s toughest places. Merlin responds with healthcare when people are overwhelmed by natural disaster, conflict or disease and are in need of immediate help.
Merlin will stay on after a crisis to assist recovery. Using medical expertise, Merlin supports health workers to strengthen existing health services and build the resilience of communities by helping those at risk of future disasters to be better prepared. For further information please go to: www.merlin.org.uk
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