DOH revising RH rules; law seen to curb child deaths

Jee Y. Geronimo
DOH revising RH rules; law seen to curb child deaths
The health department says the Philippines is 'likely to attain' its 4th Millennium Development Goal – to reduce the country's under-5 mortality rate

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) is still revising the implementing rules and regulations of the Reproductive Health (RH) law more than two weeks since it was declared constitutional by the Supreme Court (SC).

Health Secretary Enrique Ona said this in a speech Wednesday, April 23, during a health forum on reducing maternal and child mortality rates in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

“Your DOH is now in the process of revising the implementing rules of the [RH] Law to make them consistent with the specific rulings of the SC,” he said, two days after he said in a television interview they are already implementing the controversial law.

5 critical areas 

He noted that provisions not struck down by the Court “provide the necessary health policies and directives” for the 5 critical areas needed to end preventable child deaths worldwide:

  • geography
  • high-burden populations
  • high-impact solutions
  • gender equality
  • mutual accountability

High-burden populations and geography. Ona said the law prioritizes services for high-burden populations and vulnerable groups identified through various government efforts, among them, the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction.

High-impact solutions. With the law, the department can now procure and distribute to government health facilities life-saving commodities such as contraceptives, in addition to lifesaving drugs like oxytocin and magnesium sulfate, which can now be administered by midwives and nurses.

Ona said it also empowers mothers to practice healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy, taking into account free and informed choice, fertility intentions, and desired family size. (READ: SC victory, RH law and amazing women)

Gender equality. The law also establishes RH rights and provides “age- and development-appropriate RH education to adolescents,” said Ona. 

Mutual accountability. The long RH battle in Congress and the Supreme Court brought in political support and dialogue from civil society organizations which include not only non-governmental and people’s organizations, but even faith-based ones, Ona noted.

RH WINS. Health advocates celebrate their victory. File photo by Rappler

Under-5 mortality

Aside from the RH law, Ona said the 1987 Constitution already requires the government to protect lives and end preventable child and maternal deaths.

Reduction of under-5 mortality rates worldwide is one of the 8 MDGs which countries aim to achieve by 2015. 

The Philippines is likely to attain the 4th MDG, according to Health Assistant Secretary Paulyn Ubial.

“Of the infant and under-5 mortality, we are on track in terms of attaining the target of 2015 which is 19 per 1,000 live births. Currently, we are 22 for infant mortality and 30 for under-5 mortality. And our target is 19 for infant [mortality], and 27 for under-5 mortality,” Ubial said on Wednesday, April 23, citing numbers from the 2011 Family Health Survey.

In 2012, 6.6 million children died before their 5th birthday due mostly from pneumonia, diarrhea, or malaria.

According to Unicef, this means before their 5th birthday, 18,000 children worldwide died every day in 2012, while a total of 216 million children worldwide died since 1990.

On the brighter side, global efforts have saved the lives of 90 million children for the past 22 years.

However, the UN agency said faster progress is needed, otherwise the world will not meet the 4th goal until 2028, or 13 years after the 2015 deadline. –

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.