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Canadian dignitaries visit Likhaan’s integrated SRHR facility in Tondo

Updated: Apr 4, 2023

Likhaan's Executive Director, Dr. Junice Melgar greets Ambassador David Hartman, together with Minister Harjit Sajjan and MP Rechie Valdez in the waiting areas of Likhaan Zaragoza Clinic

On March 4, 2023, Likhaan’s community-based, women-centered health facility in Zaragoza St., Tondo was visited by a delegation of Canadian dignitaries led by Mr. Harjit Sajjan, Minister of International Development; Ms. Rechie Valdez, Member of Parliament of Mississauga–Streetsville; and Mr. David Hartman, Ambassador of Canada to the Philippines. Global Affairs Canada and Inter Pares, a Canadian NGO which has been Likhaan’s partner since 1995, established the maternity and family planning program in Zaragoza from 2016-2019 and supported the adolescent and youth component of the facility from 2020- 2024. In 2018, the Zaragoza clinic was visited by no less than Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

Babies coddle with MP Valdez and Minister Sajjan, who said "babies know if you like them."

The Zaragoza catchment area covers a population of over 150,000 living in 3 of the poorest areas of Manila: Port Area including Baseco (over 72,000 pop); South Tondo, including Parola, (over 45,000 pop); and San Nicolas (over 38,000 pop.) Over 70% of the residents are poor, and live off the area’s proximity to the piers (that serve the provinces south of Manila) and Divisoria, the huge market place for cheap wet and dry goods – informal workers supporting the local economy such as porter, vendors, small shop owners, pedicab (padyak) drivers.

In Baseco, many women live off peeling garlic.

In 2020, Likhaan documented 2 maternal deaths in Baseco - a 20-year-old who had obstructed labor, was brought to a public hospital and died there with her baby; and a 21-year-old who died after she delivered a live baby at home but had difficulty of breathing, was brought to 3 government hospitals but rejected on the suspicion she had Covid, and died shortly after being admitted to San Lazaro hospital, a center for infectious diseases, but not for maternal complications. Her Covid tests turned out negative.

Likhaan’s Zaragosa clinic sees around 800 consultations a month, 20% for pregnancy (mainly antenatal) care, over 70% for contraception, and for other problems, such as reproductive tract infections and sexual and gender-based violence. 30-40% of the consultations are by adolescent and young women.

The visitors went around the clinic. In the reception area, they talked with young women, 17-21 years old consulting for contraception. Some had gotten pregnant at 14 and had 3 children; a few were sexually active but without children; one was brought by her mother, a contraceptive user.

Ms. Carrie Goodge O'brien, Director General of GAC South East Asia plays with Baby Luke

In the maternity and delivery room, they talked briefly with 2 young women – one eighteen, one thirteen – who came for antenatal care. The 13 year old was drugged and did not know how and who had gotten her pregnant.

In the consultation rooms, the visitors talked with a client who had an implant insertion; another who had delivered 9 days earlier and was seeking to have an IUD but had to be counseled to use temporary method until she could have a properly-inserted IUD; and a woman who had been using an implant and was being counselled for intimate partner violence.

The last stop was the documentation and assistance area for women enrolled or wanting to enroll in the Philippines social health insurance company, PhilHealth. In 2022, 70% of Likhaan’s expenses in the Zaragoza clinic were funded by PhilHealth reimbursements, mainly for contraceptive services.

After the visit, the visitors joined the clients and Likhaan staff in souvenir photos. Then Minister Sajjan and MP Valdez went to greet and talk with the residents who had gathered around them.

Minister Sajjan, MP Valdez and Ambassador Hartman pose for a group picture with clients and Likhaan staff

Minister Sajjan talks with an old woman in the neighborhood

Minister Sajjan takes a selfie with neigborhood kids

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