The Philippines Falling Short of its Goal of Reducing Childhood Mortality

dr jonah venturino childhood mortality

The Philippines is not doing well in the sustainable development goal (SDG) 3 due to the increasing childhood mortality in the country.

During the 5th anniversary of the First 1000 Days Law (RA11146), Vicente Y. Belizario Jr., a professor and former dean of the University of the Philippines, shared his thoughts about the Philippines’ status in achieving the childhood mortality goal. He said, “If we’re talking about sustainable development goals, the Philippines as a whole is not doing [well] on childhood mortality.”

Cause Behind Childhood Mortality

The Philippines is a long-term affiliate of the United Nations and a country that pledged to achieve the 17 SDGs by 2030. Unfortunately, child mortality remains a significant issue in the Philippines, with children succumbing at the age of 2, indicating that the country falls short of its childhood mortality reduction objectives.

A report issued by the United Nations last January revealed that every year, over 60,000 children die before they reach their fifth birthday, and 60% of these are newborns. These fatalities are primarily attributed to causes such as premature births, complications during childbirth, and infectious diseases.

Roughly 31,000 children under five lost their lives due to pneumonia in 2022. This data was from 2023 statistics from the Philippine Statistics Authority. This was considered preventable if vaccination was administered.

What is the First 1,000 Days Law?

The First 1,000 Days Law was institutionalised to provide the needed services and resources during the critical 1,000 days of a child’s life, beginning from conception until the first two years. This law allows the marginalised community access to the needed services supporting their child. These services include health and nutrition programs and access to free essential and regular vaccinations.

Factors Resulting to Low Immunisation

Five years after the signing of the First 1,000 Day Law, the uptake of vaccines during the first 1000 days has remained low. This is despite policies and the availability of vaccines. The significant factors that are seen to be affecting this are the circulation of fake news and the decentralised public health system in the country.

The view of immunisation in the Philippines has been stained due to the Dengvaxia controversy. The occurrence of child fatalities following Dengvaxia vaccinations instilled public anxiety and reluctance to receive immunisations. This caused much speculation and circulation of fake news about the effects of vaccines.

Unfortunately, the quality of health services provided to the public is not on par with different local government units (LGUs) in the Philippines. This affects the effectiveness of the proposed law, limiting the progress of increasing immunisation within children.

Importance of Vaccination for Kids

Immunisation is important, especially in the first stages of life. This is because the immune system of these children is much more vulnerable to different kinds of diseases. Vaccination helps the child’s immune system combat potential illnesses they could contract.

Multiple vaccines help humanity combat various pandemics such as polio, smallpox, etc. This only proves that vaccines can also save and protect people’s lives through endless generations. 

A Doctor’s Perspective

Dr. Jonah Venturina, a physician at the Medical Research Unit and a Sub-investigator in clinical trials for multiple vaccines, shared her thoughts about the hesitation of Filipinos about vaccinations. She said, “I think people are hesitant if they get misinformed by social media and don’t know the value of being vaccinated.”

Additionally, she also suggested ways to improve the stigma towards immunisation at a young age. She stated, “The government should be transparent and accountable to its countrymen by showing the statistics of childhood mortality and the need for immunisation among children. We can encourage Filipino families by educating them on the vaccine’s benefits and doing a disease awareness lecture. The promotion of vaccinations should be done by utilising different platforms since social media is a way to spread awareness.”

She also adds, “Having an accessible immunisation gives a higher opportunity for people to avail of immunisations. Nearer vaccination sites to people’s homes mean lesser transportation costs, and lesser costs may increase willingness to go. Accessible immunisation also brings promotion and advocacy reachable to people.” 

A Need for Radical Change

We should achieve and sustain a law aimed at improving children’s lives. Misinformation or inconsistent public health systems should not limit children’s rights to access proper and necessary immunisation. Educating people in the Philippines correctly about the true benefits of vaccines is essential. Otherwise, there will be no progress in achieving the goal by 2030.

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