This is the recommendation of Assemblywoman Samira Gutoc of the Regional Legislative Assembly (RLA) representing women sector.
Gutoc who is also chairperson, Committee on Education, Arts, Culture and Sports Development of the Regional Legislative Assembly (RLA), ARMM recently submitted a position paper regarding the institutionalization of a health and nutrition unit at the DepEd-ARMM to the RLA. She said, “ there is no legislative or budgetary provision for health and nutrition unit personnel within DepEd-ARMM.”
A provisory HNU, composed of health personnel detailed from DepEd-ARMM Divisions was establish within DepEd-ARMM, Cotabato City, in order to steer health and nutrition aspects in spite of the institutional problem.
However, Gutoc said under these circumstances the administrative budgetary and operational management of the current detailed HNU is challenging all stakeholders.
To establish a clear and reliable HNU-management structure, predictable budgets and clean mandates and reporting lines for HNU-staff within DepEd-ARMM are necessary.
Delivering school health within ARMM sustainably and effectively requires the HNU to be fully and permanently embedded within DepEd-ARMM.
Upon request from DepEd-ARMM, AusAid, a Deutsche Gesselschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbei (German Organizatiion for International Cooperation) plan to provide assistance to reform the current HNU structure as part of a co-funded school health program in ARMM.
The counterpart contributions from DepEd include the institutionalization of the health and nutrition unit within a regional stature in order to safeguard its existence at the DepEd.
In addition, DepEd requests the Department of Budget Management (DBM) the creation of plantilla positions required for a functional health and nutrition unit.
AusAid and GIZ support this request strongly because there is urgent need to create for ARMM an institution as its exist in all regions of the country, responsible and accountable for school children’s health and nutrition.
The objective of the reforming effort is the creation of an HNU in ARMM with legal and budgetary legitimacy, accountable administrative structures and an impact-oriented program approach.
The composition of the HNU in DepEd-ARMM is to mirror the HNU composition as prescribed by DepEd for all regions of the country and as existing with minor difference in all regions including Regions IX to XIII of Mindanao, except in ARMM.
All regions in the country have a health and nutrition unit under the DepEd regional directors. Even in the poorer Mindanao, all regions dispose of an HNU, widely staffed as prescribed by the Department of Education as (1 medical officer, I dentist and 2 nutritionists –dietitians).
However, these positions are not allocated and budgeted for ARMM. The current unit is staffed by 3 Division nurses only detailed by ARMM divisions to the Regional Office. This set-up is volatile and undermines reporting and monitoring at regional level.
This is a core aspect to be addressed in a reform. Under the current structure, the Health and Nutrition Unit (HNU) is insufficiently staffed to manage and operate the tasks an HNU is to perform according to DepEd guidelines.
Considering the relatively poorer health of school children in ARMM compared to the Philippine average a structured and results-oriented approach of DepEd-ARMM to improve the health of children and to decrease their health and hygiene related drop-out rate is urgently needed.
A core condition for there circumstances to sustainably improve is a reliable and permanent HNU-structure that can be held accountable for its operations by the Regional Government and distribution of resources so health services delivery through DepEd-ARMM’s health work force is practically manageable, efficient and delivered equitably.
GIZ and AusAid offer technical capacity building and assistance to assist the ARMM government in this reform. At the same time the Legislative and budgetary foundations for the reform need to occur. (MCD-PIA Cotabato City/SG-RLA)