Photo by Ugat ng Kalusugan (Roots of Health)

Ugat ng Kalusugan (Roots of Health) celebrated on Monday its 10th year of helping to address unwanted pregnancy, maternal deaths and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

Ugat ng Kalusugan executive director Amina Evangelista Swanepoel said their involvement with local government units has helped advance reproductive health issues in the province.

“The success story of Ugat for me is we are able to get the efforts ng maraming offices. We are able to harness the city health, provincial health and municipal government. Kung kami lang sure naman mayron kaming magagawa but up to a certain point lang and because lahat ay may contribution to fight HIV, maternal deaths and teenage pregnancy,” she said.

Swanepoel said they have also been able to correct the cultural beliefs among indigenous peoples (IP) regarding  reproductive health.

“Usually, we are correcting the myths and the misinformation, nakakatulong ‘yon sa mga kababaihan. Pinag-uusapan naming ang mga beliefs and myths and it is done in a very engaging way. Sa mga kabataan we have a dynamic sessions at schools, and sa community we are conducting a very informative training to the barangay health worker. All are very engaged pagdating sa lessons on reproductive health,” she said.

The non-government organization was established in Palawan in 2009 by Dr. Susan Evangelista who was teaching at Palawan State University and her daughter Amina.

Dr. Susan, during the time, got concerned about the unplanned pregnancies and lack of reproductive health knowledge among her students.

“When they [Amina] got here [in the Philippines], first thing we do is visiting schools and community who would welcome. We provided health classes at PSU and less than a year our client started asking for clinical services. And that, Ami and I realized that reproductive health knowledge need to be matched with easily available, high quality and free services,” Evangelista said.

The organization began with three full-time staff members working out of their homes. Availability of reproductive health services were also started and the family grew up over the years.

Chi Laigo Vallido, director for programs and advocacy of the forum for family Planning and Development Incorporated, said that they are aiming to lessen cases of teenage pregnancy because it is considered as high-risk.

“When we talk about teenage pregnancies ay ibig sabihin, mga bata pa ito at maari nilang ikamatay and other one is the maternal death. Our goal for Palawan is to really lessen the reproductive health issues through educating them kasi kung hindi mo sila tuturuan ay wala pa ring mangyayari,” she said.

Vallido also cited the case of a 10-year old pregnant girl in Palawan that also showed the risk of unplanned pregnancy as they are usually emotionally, physically and mentally not ready.

“There was a time I visited a 10 year old girl na buntis and most likely ay caesarean siya, we got her in public hospital pero wala doon ang doctor kaya dinala namin sa private hospital pero wala silang pera but dahil indigent sila may PhilHealth sila, we try to raise a fund for that. But can you imagine a 10-year old girl ay nagbuntis, nagkaanak at marami tayong nakikita na ganon lalo na sa mga remote and isolated areas. When we talk about teenage pregnancy dapat lagi natin ia-attach kung ano ba ang consequences nito,” Vallido said.

Ugat ng Kalusugan has served more than 40,000 youths and women in Palawan.