About The Philippines
Located in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean, the Philippines is an archipelago with a population of 109 million people. Despite having one of the most vibrant economies in the region, great inequity persists: the Philippines ranks 106th on the Human Development Index, especially when it comes to issues of maternal health and child mortality.
The well-being of the nation is under constant threat, due in no small part to the severe consequences of climate change. Last year, the Philippines was deemed more susceptible to natural disasters than any other country in the world.
Substantial progress has still been made in improving the lives and health of people in the Philippines. But the health system is fragmented, and many of the country’s most vulnerable — particularly its women, infants, and children — continue to die from preventable causes. Now, the impacts of COVID-19 will only slow progress and exacerbate these challenges, as the country’s health system is stretched to its limits.
High risk of disaster
Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire and typhoon belt, the Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels, increasing frequency of natural disasters, extreme rainfall, and rising temperatures.
Storms, floods, and earthquakes displace millions of people in the Philippines every year. In 2019, over 4 million people were forced to leave home to escape the wrath of extreme weather — more climate displacements than any other country in the world besides India.
The threats to public health are far-reaching and long-lasting: Displacement increases the risk of infectious disease and malnutrition, while the more subtle impacts of climate change jeopardize air, food, and water supply.
Prevalence of infectious disease
Outbreaks of emerging and reemerging infectious diseases are a considerable burden in the Philippines. Many people suffer from the resurgence of diseases such as tuberculosis and dengue, without the right information to manage and protect their health.
The risk of infectious disease is currently at the forefront of the national health agenda, as COVID-19 threatens the lives of thousands across the country. The Philippines has one of the highest and fastest growing rates of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia. Cases have grown at alarming rates throughout 2020, sometimes doubling every few days.
Health workers are ill-equipped to manage the influx of patients. An increasing number of hospitals are reporting full occupancy, with some no longer accepting new patients.
The country’s health workers aren’t just overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients — they also lack protection to avoid infection themselves. As of May 5, 2020, at least 1,245 health workers had tested positive for the virus — which accounted for 13% of all cases in the country.
Poor maternal, neonatal, and child health
More children are living past infancy and more women are delivering at health facilities than ever before in the Philippines.
Still, every day, around 13 Filipino mothers die from complications related to pregnancy. Many of these women are young: Nearly half a million Filipino adolescents between ages 15 and 19 are already mothers.
Early childbearing puts both mother and baby at heightened risk, especially without access to quality maternal care and health education. Only a third of infants in the country are exclusively breastfed during the first six months of life — leaving the majority of Filipino babies without the basic nutrition needed to thrive and grow strong.
Filipino children are increasingly suffering from poor diets and undernutrition. The country ranks ninth in the world for having the most stunted children. One in three children are stunted by the age of 2, while 10% of adolescents are obese. Adolescent obesity has nearly tripled since 2004.
Bringing HOPE to the Philippines
Our history in the Philippines
Project HOPE’s work in the Philippines dates back to 2012, when Project HOPE medical volunteers participated in humanitarian assistance missions to the country in partnership with the U.S. Navy.
In 2013, when Typhoon Haiyan struck, Project HOPE responded quickly, sending medicines, supplies, and medical volunteers to support relief and recovery. Since Haiyan, our work has focused on improving maternal, neonatal, and child health and strengthening health services by providing technical assistance to hospitals.
Protecting communities and health workers against COVID-19
With support from partners, we delivered personal protective equipment to frontline health workers at the onset of COVID-19. We also held live training sessions to help health workers better treat the virus in their communities.
We’re continuing to train and equip health workers to ensure they have the supplies and support they need to keep saving lives without risking their own.
In partnership with Brown University’s Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies, Project HOPE is providing remote training on COVID-19 for doctors and nurses to become Master Trainers in infection prevention and control, who then train other health workers to recognize and treat COVID-19.
We’re not strictly focused on meeting immediate needs — we’re also building longer-term capacities across the health system to tackle infectious diseases and prepare for future outbreaks. We’re working with trained health workers to strengthen infection prevention and control management in hospitals and health facilities and implement improved controls, practices, and protocols.
Responding to disaster
We stand ready to respond in times of disaster with critical medical relief, and lifesaving medicine and supplies. We are also committed to providing long-term support so communities are more resilient and prepared to respond to future storms.
In the months following Typhoon Haiyan, Project HOPE delivered lifesaving medicines and supplies to help survivors in areas most devastated by the disaster. We also sent more than 80 medical volunteers to badly damaged sites in Capiz and Cebu Province. In Cebu, Project HOPE rebuilt damaged health infrastructure and strengthened health systems in the remote Camotes Islands by hiring Filipino health professionals.
Reducing maternal, neonatal, and child mortality
In 2014, Project HOPE launched a maternal, neonatal, child health and nutrition project to strengthen maternal and child health care and provide men, women, and youth with access to family planning in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.
In 2015, we began a three-year Practical Obstetrics Multi-Professional Training program to further reduce maternal and infant mortality and birth-related injuries. We provided technical assistance to eight medical and training hospitals so multi-professional teams – composed of nurses, midwives, anesthesiologists, OB consultants, and OB residents – were better able to respond to obstetrical emergencies.
Today we’re continuing efforts to keep mothers and newborns safe by empowering frontline health workers fighting the COVID-19 outbreak.
Since Typhoon Haiyan, Project HOPE has delivered over $24 million in medicines, vaccines, and medical supplies, which have helped more than 270,000 patients across the Philippines.
In recent months, in partnership with Americares, we’ve procured and distributed more than 57,300 N95 surgical masks to health workers working on the frontlines of COVID-19. Our partners have also trained over 2,000 health care workers using the Project HOPE COVID-19 curriculum.
Project HOPE’s earlier efforts to improve maternal, neonatal, and child health and nutrition led to significant results: a 60% increase in access to health services for pregnant women, mothers, and children under 5, and an 82% increase in the number of pregnant and postpartum women who received health counseling. There was also a 33% increase in the number of pregnant women who attended four or more prenatal visits, and twice as many infants exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life.