Philippines: Shrinking social budget hits the poorest

  • International staff: 10
  • National staff: 42 The Philippine government's policy of shifting social responsibilities from the national to the local governments has reduced the federal social services budget from US$40 million in 1998 to just US$25 million in 2000. However, local governments now entrusted with basic social services, including health care, lack the funding and human resources to handle the demand. People living on the streets in the capital, Manila - including more than 75,000 young people - are particularly affected by the budget cuts. Many survive by selling cigarettes or flowers, begging, stealing or prostitution. Since the first MSF street children program began in 1992, MSF has worked toward the reintegration of these children by offering medical, social and legal assistance. MSF provides medical care, vaccinations and health education in clinics, the Molave Youth Home, Tulay ng Kabataan and Sampaloc Bible Church or out on the streets in places where children gather. In some areas of the city, medical care is directly provided by MSF. The team also goes to detention centers for drug users to identify those most in need of help. Children in jail are also visited by MSF teams, who monitor their health and welfare and also offer legal assistance. Paradise Village Paradise Village, an ironically named shantytown in the swampy outskirts of Manila, is home to 15,000 people. The area is continually flooded by typhoons, monsoons and high tides. MSF has improved drainage facilities and basic access to the slum area and has offered health education to residents. A similar project will get underway in fall 2000 in nearby People's Village. IDPs in Mindanao Fighting between the Philippine government and rebels in the Mindanao region in the south has caused over 10% of the area's five million people to flee their homes. In June 2000, MSF began to bring aid to about 40,000 people displaced by fighting in the Cotabato area. This program is part of MSF's emergency response efforts, which have also included help for people displaced by the eruption of the Mayon volcano that spring. In Sulu province, a group of islands on the extreme south of the Philippines, MSF has worked since 1997 to develop cooperative pharmacies. MSF supplies drugs to 14 rural health units to supplement those provided by the Ministry of Health. This project has helped make necessary drugs - sold in city pharmacies at four times the price - available to the poor in the region, where many health units do not even have a pharmacy. Despite the success of the program, instability throughout the region has prohibited the expansion of the project.