Monday, July 30, 2007

Creating Roads to Sexual & Reproductive Health

The explicit intertwining of the issues on infrastructure and health is what makes the town of Paracelis, said to be Mt. Province’s last frontier, among the four project areas of the 6th UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) Country Programme. It has been said that the hierarchy of needs should always be the starting point of all programs seeking to adress the needs at a higher level. This is the case in Paracelis and even in most of the towns in Mt. Province, north of the Philippines, where reproductive health seems to be an abstract in the minds of its people.

Nestled in the interior triboundaries of Ifugao, Isabela and Kalinga is the remote town of Paracelis, Mountain Province. There are two difficult, almost impassable routes to get there – either through the steep and narrow mountainsides of Mount Polis, where boulders and rough mountain rocks combine to make the surface of a road; or by passing through Isabela and the dirt roads of Alfonso Lista, Ifugao. Both paths are characterized by rough, bumpy roads pockmarked with potholes. During the rainy season, the road turns sticky with mud and the two rivers become swollen, making travel next to impossible.

UNFPA’s initial project in the municipality targets four barangays that are equally challenging to reach. Barangays (village) Bantay and Bunot are easier to reach because vehicles can pass through and the routes are relatively passable. Reaching the other two barangays of Anonat and Buringal, however, will require tougher guts.
Anonat can only be reached after an hour-and-a-half motorboat ride in the Siffu River. From there, one has to hike for one-and half hour to reach the town proper. To reach Buringal, the farthest town, one has to pass through several towns in Isabela before reaching the mighty Mallig River in Dommon for an hour-and-a half motorboat ride. The rest of the journey is traveled by long hours of hiking.
During the community appraisal phase of the UNFPA project, the very condition of these roads was identified as central to the people’s quest for better and healthy lives.With the lack of key infrastructures in the area, any development intervention in the towns invariably fails.

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The original article of this appeared in Health Alert Asia Pacific Issue No. 10, 2007 (Supplementary issue). For copies of the newsletter, please email