While under-five mortality has declined slightly in recent years from 54 deaths per 1,000 births in 1988-92 to 48 deaths for the period 1993-1997, infant mortality rates have remained unchanged at about 35 deaths per 1,000 births. The relationship of a mother's level of education to the health and well-being of her child is evident in that the probability of dying among infants whose mother received no formal schooling (79 deaths per 1,000) is two and a half times higher than that for infants whose mother has had some high school education (31 deaths per 1,000).
Lack of sufficient medical care, before and at the time of delivery, can increase the risk of complications and infections that can cause death or serious illness for either the mother or the newborn. While most Filipino mothers (86 percent) receive prenatal care from a health professional, the proportion of recent births for which the mother received two or more tetanus toxoid vaccinations during pregnancy declined from 42 percent in 1993 to 38 percent. Moreover, because two-thirds of all births are delivered at home, only 56 percent of mothers receive assistance at delivery from a health professional. Despite these needed improvements, maternal mortality has remained low at approximately 200 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.
Breastfeeding with all its healthful and economic advantages is the best form of feeding during the first six months of infancy. Although most Filipino babies (88 percent) are breastfed for some time, NDHS data indicate that supplementation with other liquids and foods occurs too early. The first breast milk, or colostrum, is particularly beneficial to newborns because it contains a high concentration of antibodies that protect children against certain infectious diseases. In the Philippines, among newborns less than two months of age, one in seven is not breastfed, and 19 percent are receiving supplementary foods in addition to breast milk.
Full immunization coverage of children age 12-23 months has only slightly improved from 72 to 73 percent between 1993 and 1998. When the data are restricted to vaccines received before the child's first birthday, however, only 65 percent of children age 12-23 months can be considered fully vaccinated.