Barangay health stations rising from the Haiyan rubble
MANILA, Philippines – In rural areas, Filipinos troop to the nearest barangay health station (BHS) for their medical needs.
These stations, which are supervised by rural health units (RHU) and urban health centers, provide primary health care such as immunization, health education, maternity care, and child care.
Although RHUs offer more services, the 2003 National Demographic and Health Survey showed that more Filipinos visit the village stations.
But data from the Department of Health (DOH) show that less than 2,000 health stations have been put up from 1996 to 2006. This number translates to one BHS serving 3 villages – far from the ideal one health station per village.
This is the same situation in many areas in the Visayas even before Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) wreaked havoc in 2013.
"Before Haiyan, people preferred to get basic medical services in the BHS because there, they no longer need to pay for transportation," said Marites Cayetano of Alegre, Dulag in Leyte.
But after the super typhoon, most of these facilities were damaged. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported over 2,000 health facilities were damaged across the Visayas region alone. (READ: Yolanda a year after: Hundreds of clinics not yet repaired)
"Our BHS was rendered useless by Haiyan," Cayetano added.
In the aftermath, barangay health workers had to do immunizations inside churches or under trees. Medical equipment, like the blood pressure gauge, was not available, forcing health workers to borrow from neighboring villages.
Help from NGOs
More than a year after the disaster, Visayas is slowy rising from the rubble.
To date, World Vision has handed over 21 health facilities across its response areas. Medical equipment such as pre-natal beds, gloves, first aid kits, weighing scales, height boards, anthropomorphic measurement instruments, and detecto scales were also provided.
"I am also appreciative of the capacity building provided to health workers," Cayetano added.
The 2007 DOH Field Health Information System showed that only 38% of health care providers in the Philipines are serving in the Visayas and Mindanao, while the rest are in Luzon.
Health stations are mostly manned by midwives and barangay health workers, hence the need for capacity building.
World Vision, in coordination with health authorities from the municipal level, also conducted training on infant and young children feeding, psychological first aid, and child growth standards.
These trainings are needed, since a 2014 World Vision report revealed that many Filipino families (42.5% of survey population) have children under 5 years of age.
Laurena Escader, barangay health worker in Botongon, Estancia in Iloilo, talked about the importance of assistance such as that given by World Vision's in poverty alleviation and improving child well-being through the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
The past 15 years have halved the number of child deaths. As the end of MDG approaches, there is a need to put children at the center of post-2015 goals.
"Before, we used to have more than 40 cases of severe malnutrition in the village but now, it has been reduced to 15 cases. I am confident we can have it at zero," Escader said. – Rappler.com
Joy Maluyo is the communication officer for World Vision's Haiyan Response. She is based in Manila but is currently deployed in the Visayas, moving around assisted areas in Panay Island, North Cebu, and Leyte.