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  • Judy Santiago

#IdeasPositiveRun5: Making Mommas Safe

“If you save the life of a mother, you also save the life of her child.” This is the battle cry of a group of college students, who only sought to help the community, but ended up changing their lives forever.

“If you save the life of a mother, you also save the life of her child.” This is the battle cry of a group of college students, who only sought to help the community, but ended up changing their lives forever.

Mark Rezaga, Kim Pabello, Cherryl Surigao, Raiza Hisancha, and Eugenie Almira call themselves “Team Mamasitters,” and their goal is to link mothers to available health services to minimize maternal mortality and morbidity in the far-flung barangay of Pangilihan in Janiuay, Iloilo. Mark explains, “We checked their records. Only half of the mothers go to their prenatal checkups, and there’s a downward trend in facility-based delivery.”

What inspired the team to address the health gap was the story of Pangilihan’s Kagawad on Health, Chona Galleron. “Meron kaming case ng death sa panganganak noong 1998. Walang ambulansya, tapos isang oras ang biyahe mula sa bahay nila papuntang ospital. Nagka-hemorrhage yung nanay, dead on arrival (We had an incident of maternal death in 1998. There was no ambulance and it took an hour for the mother to reach the hospital. The mother died of hemorrhage).”

With 18 years of experience as Kagawad on Health, Chona adds that some mothers opt to give birth at home with traditional birth attendant or hilot than facility-based delivery due to the distance and cost. Elaine Moguete, mother of two, puts it bluntly, “Sa sahig lang ako nanganak, gunting lang ang gamit (I gave birth at home, on the floor, using only a pair of scissors).”

Through bayanihan with the community, the team transformed the barren health center into a functional maternity house. They renovated the shell and furnished it with the needed medical equipment to offer quality health services. What used to be a stock room is now a prenatal room, with three beds and a toilet. “When it’s near the estimated date of the mother’s delivery, she will be transported from her house via a motor ambulance. She can stay here until the time she’s about to give birth, when she will be transported to the hospital, which is just 15-30 minutes away,” Kim explains.

To address the need for ready transportation from the mother’s house to the hospital, the team provided a motor ambulance exclusive for their use. This way, experiences like that of April Galleron, 19, would not recur. April recounts, “Sa balay ako nagbata kasi isang oras papuntang ospital. Depende pa kung may jeep o habal-habal. Ta-timing-an mo pa para makasakay ka (I gave birth at home because it takes an hour to go to the hospital. It also depends on how fast you can find a jeep or a motorcycle to ride).”

With the team’s intervention in place, 18-year-old and first-time mother Joylyn Dagu had this to say: “Dati mainit sa health center, sira ang kama. Ngayon may sasakyan na para mapadali ang pagdala sa ospital para siguradong hindi mapeligro ang buhay ng nanay o bata man (Before, the health center had poor ventilation and a broken bed. Now, we have a vehicle that can transport the mothers to the hospital safely).Kagawad Chona affirms this, saying that the revamped health center will encourage mothers to attend their prenatal check-ups. The team also engaged the mothers with livelihood programs like food processing and nail care services, to provide them a source of income that they can use for their hospital expenses.

Mark reveals that there were challenges in implementing their project. “May nanay bang maniniwala sa mga 20-year-olds tungkol sa maternal health? Anong alam namin sa pagiging nanay o tatay? (Would a mother or a father believe what we as 20-year-olds know about maternal health? What do we know about being parents)?” That’s why the team partnered with the Regional Health Unit, invited doctors to check on the mothers, and tapped the Department of Agriculture to conduct livelihood seminars.

Eugenie, on behalf of her team, shares the vision for Brgy. Pangilihan: “Mga nanay na inaalagaan ang sarili nila, hindi lang para sa kanila, kung hindi para sa mga anak nila. Sana maging inspirasyon ang project namin sa buong Iloilo at sa buong Pilipinas. Kahit gaano ka-simple ang project namin, ang laki ng naitulong nito sa community (Mothers who take care of themselves not only for them, but for their children. We hope our project will serve as an inspiration to the other barangays in Iloilo and in the whole Philippines. Even if our project is very simple, it made a huge and lasting impact in the community).”

This article is part of the #IdeasPositiveRun5 series, which documents the transformation of 14 communities through innovative ideas of 14 youth teams. Follow their story as they build a healthier Philippines, one community at a time! Visit the Ideas Positive official Facebook page.

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