September 19

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A fisher folk’s tale – Day 3 Episode 5

In the afternoon we visited a fishing community to find out what their health needs are. The fisher folk are among the most marginalized in the Philippines and are very poor. Fishing is their main source of income but during the typhoon season, it is too dangerous to fish.

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This community is a smaller section of a Barangay called a Purok – which usually consists of small clusters of households. We wanted to talk to the Purok leader to find out more about the main health problems here, as part of the Situational Analysis for the new Maternal and Child Health program.

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Walking the plank

 

We located the Purok leader who agreed to talk to us in her home. She was voted in by the community of around 90 households, each with up to 7-8 children per household. There is 1 Barangay Health Worker for this community but she does not cover all the households.

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The main health problem for children here is diarrhoea and malnourishment. Although there is a water pump, there is no space for a toilet, so they use the sea.

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When there is no income from fishing, money is borrowed from the Barangay for rice rations. It costs 10 pesos each way to send children to school, not including lunch money. If there are many children in a family, it becomes impossible to afford to send them. When girls as young as 15 become pregnant, they stop their schooling. Adolescent boys are also pressured to leave school to help support their parents earn some income for their families. This is very common in the country especially in rural areas among farmers, as well as fishing communities.

The 4P’s is a conditional cash transfer program of the Philippine government under the Department of Social Welfare and Development. It stands for Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (English: Bridging Program for the Filipino Family) and aims to eradicate extreme poverty in the Philippines by investing in health and education particularly in ages 0–14.

There is a controversy on how the 4ps beneficiaries are being selected. The DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) uses a household tracking system which is not reliable. There is also a need to update the list since some families may have improved their status while other families may suffer financial difficulties at certain times of the year depending on their type of vocation. The social protection program of the government needs to be evaluated thoroughly depending on the local contexts. There is also a need for rigid monitoring on how the funds are being disbursed and how families really comply with the conditionalities of the conditional cash transfer.

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The fisher folk are not considered the poorest of the poor therefore remain marginalized, and their children continue to suffer.

 

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(Many thanks to Dr Parawan and Dr DeGregorio for their translations and clarifications for this post)

Next stop…Lake Sebu. Speak soon, Alli 🙂