US-sponsored program helps ARMM leaders

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United States Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg joined the Zuellig Family Foundation Inc. (ZFF), the Department of Health, and the US Embassy’s Agency for International Development (USAID)/Philippines in celebrating the graduation of 38 Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) leaders who successfully completed a two-year Health Leadership and Governance Program.

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The program, which culminated in a Health Colloquium, seeks to improve quality, affordability, access and availability of health care for the Moro people. The graduates from 18 municipalities improved the ratio of midwife to population and facility-based deliveries; the number of clinics accredited with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation has increased; and the number of reproductive health units that are accessible around the clock has tripled.

Health Secretary Jean Paulyn Ubial, Vice President Leonor Robredo, ARMM Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman , and ZFF Chairperson Roberto Romulo also attended the ceremony.

Ubial, acknowledging the health challenges in ARMM, said, “It is our hope in the Department of Health to have an inclusive health agenda that will allow us to actually focus on the health and well-being of the poorest Filipinos, the marginalized, the most vulnerable.”

Three mayors from the municipalities of Tandubas (Tawi-Tawi), Akbar (Basilan) and Sultan Mastura (Maguindanao), and one municipal health officer from Masiu (Lanao del Sur), all alumni of the program, shared moving stories about how they overcame health issues in their respective localities, describing first-hand how even low-income municipalities in ARMM can improve health outcomes with strong health governance.

Robredo praised the Health Leadership and Governance Program, stating that, “Programs such as these allow mayors to quickly understand the problem and become a catalyst for change. When the local leader governs with honesty, integrity, and transparency, constituents have a better quality of life and progress happens from the top to the bottom.”

USAID/Philippines, in partnership with the Department of Health and through the Zuellig Family Foundation, builds health leadership and governance programs in 104 municipalities and cities nationwide, and strengthens health systems for improved service delivery at provincial hospitals, primary health care facilities and communities. From 2013 to 2016, USAID contributed more than P1 billion in Mindanao and ARMM.

“The US government will continue to support Mindanao and ARMM to achieve lasting peace and development in the years to come,” Goldberg said.

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