Aug 162012

Senator Tito Sotto tried to debunk the data that 11 maternal deaths occur daily, but ended up reinforcing the same with figures gathered by his own staff. Here’s what he said at the Senate1:

The proponents of the bill are saying that 11 Filipino women die every day when they talked about maternal mortality. They have not, however, supported this claim with accurate and consistent data. Kung tutuusin sa pinagawa ko sa mga staff ko, hindi pa nga umabot man lang sa kalahati ng 11 maternal deaths ang nakalap nila sa mga hospitals sa Pilipinas nung 2011 eh. For example, sa Nueva Viscaya Provincial Hospital, ang maternal deaths na naitala nila ay 2 lamang sa 2011. … Sa Batangas Regional Hospital, 7 out of 2584 deliveries ang naitala .27%. Hindi pa nga umabot sa 1%. … Kaya ang hirap paniwalaan ang kanilang figure na 11 mothers die every day.

Sotto failed to grasp that a small number – such as the 0.27% he calculated for Batangas and belittled – becomes large when multiplied by a huge number like the millions of births per year.

If we assume that the Batangas data can be applied to all births in the country2 in 2011, the national figure becomes 2,385,000 births × 0.27% = 6,461 maternal deaths per year, or nearly 18 per day.

Put in another way, if the Batangas Regional Hospital had a maternal mortality ratio equivalent to the country’s MDG target of 53 deaths per 100,000 live births, then Sotto’s staff should have counted only 1 death out of the 2,584 deliveries recorded. Six women should have survived. Malaysia and Thailand had had MMRs of 50 and below a decade or so ago.
Sotto should learn from this mistake and take the data gathered by his staff seriously, and not let his biases cover-up the tragic reality of women’s deaths.

Alfredo Melgar

1. See
2. As estimated by the UN Population Division; see

Roots of Health