Philippines: Child-friendly: What it means for a city to be one

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WE’VE been hearing about it.

The city has reaped laurels after winning for the fifth time (1998, 1999, 2013, 2014 and 2015) the Presidential Awardee for the most child-friendly highly-urbanized city in the country, drawing applause from other local government units.

But what really goes into the making of a child-friendly city?

Simply said, it’s a city where children are protected, empowered, nurtured and looked as active agents in the society through policies and programs initiated and sustained by the local government unit.

Having won the laurel five times, Davao is now a “Hall of Famer” and a “benchmark” city for other LGUs to learn from and adopt programs and projects upholding the rights and welfare of the children.

“The development thrust of the City Government of Davao is centered on its people, and the welfare of our children is among our top priorities. These award-winning best practices will remain in place and we will continually respond to the ever-growing demands of providing our children a healthy and holistic environment,” Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said.

City Social Services and Development Office chief Maria Luisa Bermudo said that the plum is a collective effort of all the city government departments, civil society organizations and all 182 barangays in the city.

“The city has been collectively working to put children’s rights first allowing for an environment that is truly child friendly. And the labors done over the years has finally paid off,” Bermudo said.

But beyond this title, is the sacrifices long-endured by the movers and shakers of the City Government and a big challenge worthy of taking.

State of Children Report

As of 2015, the Davao City Council for Welfare of Children (DCCWC) accounted for 542,834 children in the city, or 37.60 percent of its total population.

Mae Aquino, secretariat of the DCCWC, told SunStar Davao in an interview that the city’s commitment to realize the long-term vision of fully making the city’s children as “God-Centered, healthy, empowered, free from abuse and neglect with full access to social services and living in a peaceful and gender-fair caring society,” is manifested in the allocation of funds and implementation of both existing and proposed projects and programs for the children’s full development.

In a data signed by City Budget Officer Ermelinda Furog, over P1.5 billion has been allocated by the city for the resource allocation and utilization for children or some over 25 percent of the city’s total budget in 2015 at P5.813 billion.

“And our budget allocation for the programs and projects for the children keeps on increasing yearly,” Aquino said.

Aquino added that the city’s budget (for children) will be poured into the initiatives and programs that are anchored on the four major rights of the children which are survival, protection, development and participation.

Survival and Health

A healthy community reflects a sense of mental and physical well-being which serves as a foundation for achieving social development.

Recognizing this, the city has given outmost assistance thru provision and access to healthcare services with a lifecycle approach.

For instance, Davao City’s progress in reducing the Millennium Development Goal 4 – Reduce Child Mortality is on track.

The infant mortality rates increased from 8.89 in 2014 to 9.51 in 2015, while the under-five year-old mortality decreased from 12.71 to 12.45.

Addressing the problem on Severe Acute Malnutrition (Sam), the city government adopted in 2014 the program dubbed as Community Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition (Cimam), making Davao as the first local government unit to implement the Cimam Program in a non-emergency setting.

Evangeline Genite, chief of Nutrition Division of the City Health Office said that the cases of children with Sam have continued to decrease in the last two years.

Genite said they started the program in 2014 with an admission rate of 372 severely acute malnourished children and a cure rate or 80 percent or 307 children.

In 2015, they admitted 124 severely acute malnourished children and with a cure rate of 89 percent or 110 cured children.

At present, Davao City has a total of 189 health centers.

Recently, there are nine centers and facilities completed construction and are now functional thru the Health Facility Enhancement Program of the Department of Health amounting to P98 Million.

These health centers are Bunawan, Agdao, Calinan, Paquibato, Jacinto health centers, Davao City Rehabilitation Center for Stroke Patients, Malabog Lying-In, Paradise Embac Barangay Health Station and Baguio Birthing Facility.

For the Lingap Para sa Mahirap Program, Davao government continues to extend medical assistance and hospital services to its constituents.

A total of P68.7 million was utilized in 2014 to provide assistance to indigents in 44,021 total numbers of cases.

For improving Reproductive Health of the mothers who are essential in child’s growth, the city conducted Buntis Party in every district in coordination with POGS yearly.

It is an information, education and communication activity that is aimed at “raising the awareness of all pregnant women where pregnancies are at risk.”

Maternal Death Review, contraceptive measures like services on providing free Bilateral Tubal Ligation and No Scalpel Vasectomy (for men) were provided.

A total of 1,411 Out-of-School Youths benefited the city’s Adolescent Reproductive Health (ARH) activities.

Other initiatives include Anti-smoking campaign, Communicable Disease Prevention and Control and Breast Feeding Program.

Developments in Literacy

Taking the lead on this aspect is the implementation of the Early Childhood Care and Development or ECCD program as the city recognizes the importance of early and effective educational development.

Investments were also made for the infra component of education thru construction and rehabilitation of school buildings, classrooms and provision of school amenities for senior high schools.

Efforts and resources were directed to Alternative Learning System and Madrasa System of education as well as literacy program for indigenous people, the Lumads and Moros in Davao.

“Davao also strengthened the comprehensive scholarship and educational assistance program for the underprivileged but deserving students to subsequently alleviate the economic status of their respective families,” Bermudo said.

At present, the city has a total of 255 day care centers, 114 home-based centers and three child minding centers.

Other Davao-initiated programs for development are Reading Habit Promotion, a program aimed to uphold literacy through reading habit providing services to 30 barangays with 83,973 clients served.

The City Library received 3,323 volumes of books and other reading materials from friends of the library through the Share a Book Project.

The “Magbasa Ta Programa ni Mayor para sa Barangay” Program provided various services through the Bookmobile.

Some of the featured activities include Storytelling Contest and Book Character Parade.

It became operational in September 2015.

Moreover, for 2015, there were 52,913 enrolled in the ECCD, a decrease of 14.10 percent from the 46,373 listed in 2014.

The 17.56 percent of the children registered or 5,747 were Indigenous People and 2.66 percent or 1,023 were Moro Children.

The 3 P’s

These programs take care of the first P, or Provision, of the three Ps of children’s rights: Provision, protection and participation.

Provision refers to sharing and distribution and includes the right to possess, receive or have access to specific resources and services for the best interest of the child.

It covers a wide variety of things that children should receive to have better chances of turning out to be the best they can.

It can be tangible like money, or the intangibles like mental and physical space, power, opportunities, knowledge, love, friendship, self-esteem and nature.

The right to protection means the right to being shielded from certain acts and practices that can hurt a child, whether physically or mentally.

While participation involves the right of the child to do things, to express themselves and be able to air out what he or she needs as an individual or a group.

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