The UN children's agency Friday urged the Philippines to do more to reduce the high rate of maternal mortality in the Southeast Asian nation.
UNICEF country representative Vanessa Tobin, on a visit to a Manila hospital where she saw babies being delivered, said the agency was puzzled why one woman dies every two hours due to complications from pregnancy and childbirth.
"We need to understand why despite the available health care services, many of our pregnant women choose to deliver without the proper care of skilled health workers," Tobin said in a statement released to journalists accompanying her on the tour.
Data from a 2009 UNICEF report shows a Filipina mother has a one in 140 chance of dying while delivering a child, compared with one in 8,000 in industrialised countries.
This translates to around 11 mothers dying every day or 4,500 a year due to pregnancy and childbirth complications.
Also, it said about half of the deaths of Filipino children under the age of five happen within the first four weeks of their lives.
"The health and survival of mothers and their newborns are linked, and many of the interventions that save new mothers' lives also benefit their infants," Tobin added.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the government was "mobilising our resources to improve services especially for pregnant women and newborns" and encouraging local governments to provide facilities to complement those funded by the national government.