One midwife’s relentless determination to give families a healthy start
Joy Abuyabor is a midwife from Leyte, in the central region of the Philippines called Visayas. Since 2008, she has been operating her family health care and maternity clinic so more babies can be delivered safely and parents can seek family planning options.
Abuyabor’s work reflects the national government’s objectives to reduce maternal and infant deaths and meet family planning needs. In 2015 alone, about 2,700 Filipino mothers lost their lives to preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and almost 30,000 newborns lost their lives before reaching 1 month old.
To help the Philippine Government address this, USAID, in partnership with EngenderHealth, launched the VisayasHealth Project in 2013.
Project staff train health workers on patient-centered counseling so parents can make informed decisions about family planning. The project also supports public-private midwives networks, where experienced midwives mentor other members on skills like caring for pregnant women or inserting and removing intrauterine devices.
Through these networks, the providers coordinate services to better serve clients. For example, a woman may learn about family planning methods in a private clinic, but can be referred to a nearby public clinic for free products and services.
In 2013, Abuyabor joined one of these networks. That same year, on Nov. 8, Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines. It was one of the most powerful storms on record and Abuyabor had just delivered a baby in her clinic.
Storm surges battered the building while seawater washed away equipment, medical supplies and records. Abuyabor took her staff, the new mother and the baby to the roof for safety. When the water subsided, she salvaged supplies to care for survivors. She resumed services in just weeks and even delivered babies. Over time, she fully restored her clinic.
“I never lost hope,” says Abuyabor smiling.
Today, she provides antenatal care to about 400 women and delivers around 25 babies per month. She counsels parents seeking options for family planning, and gives them the method best suited to their needs.
The network convenes regularly to improve members’ skills and collaboration. Abuyabor is a mentor now and hosts workshops. “This network has enhanced my skills and knowledge,” she says. “We mentor one another, which helps us give the right information and services to our clients.”
USAID has trained and provided technical support on maternal care and family planning to more than 11,000 community health workers nationwide. By educating parents and providing quality services, these health workers have contributed to the Philippine Government’s achievement in 2015 of assisting more than 77 percent of deliveries with a skilled birth attendant. And in 2016 alone, almost 90 percent of service delivery sites supported by the U.S. Government also provided family planning services.
These measures allow more Filipinos to access quality health care and raise healthy, stable families.