Healthy pregnancy is ‘everybody’s business’ in Limasawa Island
Limasawa Island, Southern Leyte–Being pregnant triggers many personal and financial “inconveniences, ” in one way or another. But not in this island town of Limasawa in the province of Southern Leyte.
Here pregnant mothers, their husbands and the entire community join hands to ensure that health and financial cares of pregnant women and their families—from conception to delivery and proper rearing of the child—will be taken care of thru their local health best practices.
Alex Calonia, a father and village captain in Cabulihan, this town, says he is happy that his constituents now appreciate their health programs, like on “Buntis Baby Bank .”
“Here individual coin banks are provided for all pregnant women in the island, and being maintained in the Rural health Unit and Barangay Health Stations to help them save money for their birth, “he says.
Also every prenatal visit, pregnant women drop coins or bills in their own “bank” (which is made of bamboo) , while visitors may also drop coins.
“Before, we usually have problems on where to get money for our mothers when they come to us (village leaders) for help during the delivery of their child. But when this project was implemented, the fathers and the mothers become excited on this.”
Each pregnant woman will also take turn in putting additional amount for expectant mothers to cover the medical bills.
“ This may sounds ‘crude’ to outsiders, but its indeed working here in our community. We all try to save for each child to be born here ,” he adds.
He says the system is like coming up with a “sinking fund” for the mothers.
“This is like forced, communal savings to them. Anyway they will be the one to benefit from this.”
His village usually has 2-5 pregnant mothers every year, and at the time of the delivery, the mother or mothers usually get around P2,000 or more from their “bank”, which will also be checked or validated by the village treasurer.
“ At least they will a ready money during the delivery. This can help them, more if the pregnancy is complicated and they needed additional money so they could travel to a hospital in the mainland.”
Fishing is the main livelihood of this small town, and most of them don’t have health insurances.
The people here have to take a 40-minute “banca (outrigger)” ride to the mainland, where its provincial hospital is another 1-hour bus ride.
This 6th Class island municipality with its 6 villages has only one assigned doctor for its around 6,000 residents. Also it has only P20.86 million annual revenue allotment with around P200,000 for its health budget for its constituents.
Alex says, he himself is also saving and contributing for others.
He says that with meager internal revenue allotment (IRA) which is around P805,000 per annum, they usually have P20,000 for health programs.
This year however the amount is even decreased to around P15,000 due to budget cut implemented by national government.
Population of his village is 794 with 178 households.
“We are relying now on our community initiatives in promoting the health and welfare of our pregnant mothers and their children.”
Calonia says they have operational Breastfeeding Support Group which gives ounces of milk to those mothers who are in need of milk.
“ This group also monitors the feeding practices of mothers. And they are complemented with the Community Health Team which has also their corresponding functions , most likely in giving of needed assistance to pregnant women and lactating mothers, since it is believed that good nutrition starts from the womb.”
Also, they created Barangay (village) Feeding Group, primarily to monitor the mother and child if they follow the law that it would be purely mother’s milk from 0-6 months of a child.
“Although we don’t allow our stores to sell commercial milk, yet if they will be found out using commercial milk, we will have them called at the barangay hall, for lecture or reminder,” Calonia stresses.
Meanwhile Calonia says that even the fathers are encouraged in promoting health practices for their pregnant wives.
“We don’t leave the job of providing nutrition in the family to our mothers alone. We now have Fathers’ Class here. This to orient and educate fathers on what to do when their wives are getting pregnant or having children already .”
During the class, which is held quarterly, fathers are taught on how to assist mothers during their pregnancy, teaching them the correct position for breastfeeding, maintain the nutrition of their children, and monitor their own nutritional status as well.
And the fathers are not taking it as a joke, he adds.
“ I am even enrolled in the class, this also so I can prepare myself and know my role again when we’ll have our second child soon,” he says enthusiastically.
Calonia says that they seem like doing the “impossible” in educating the parents, yet it is already happening in their village now.
However on cases of teenage pregnancy, Calonia says that usually this happens to teenagers from their place who went to far-flung provinces or in Manila and who went back to the Island as already pregnant.
“In this situation , we have no choice but to help these young mothers during their pregnancy period.”
Aside from this, the village regularly follows the local ordinance in the town on other health practices for pregnant mothers.
They have “Prenatal sa Biyernes, Pakan-on ang Buntis”– wherein pregnant women are given supplemental feeding, lecture and advice on exclusive breastfeeding and healthy eating practices after prenatal every Friday.
Another is “Healthy Baby Contest” — a contest to promote exclusive breastfeeding among infants 0-6 months.
Parents are also encouraged to maintain their own vegetable garden in the backyard and another for the children in school to supply the family with nutritious foods.
For Alex and other village captains and their constituents, every health project they have becomes worth taking, particularly when their town becomes the pride of the entire Eastern visayas region via 2011 Nutrition Honor Award recognition due to their community-based efforts to curb malnutrition and infant and mother mortality rate for the past six years– this also in consonance to UN- Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Also their 14-plus health “Best Practices” have helped the town to achieve the highest literacy rate of 97% compared to other 18 towns in the province.
Calonia says that they have achieved what their town deserved for.
“ We are not the only place in the this country where Christianity was first planted through Ferdinand Magellan on March 31, 1521, but also the first place in this region to win a national health awards for our mothers and children,” Calonia says, with pride. BY RONALD O. REYES
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