Archives of WHO

Health Workers in the 1950s

Midwifes in the Philippines

Attendance on women during childbirth in the Philippines was traditionally the right of "hilots", local midwives whose knowledge of maternity care was passed on to them by their mothers. In July 1954 the government of the Philippines launched a programme intended to take advantage of the natural aptitude of the hilots by providing basic formal training in midwifery, enabling them to give better, more hygienic care to mothers and newborns. With the help of UNICEF and WHO, 12-week courses were provided in delivery, prenatal care and postnatal care throughout the country. Thousands of hilots took the courses. After passing an examination at the end of the course, the hilots received a maternity kit supplied by UNICEF, and were authorized to practice. They worked closely with local health clinics, helping with house-to-house improvement of hygiene and sanitation, and sending for medical assistance in the event of abnormal deliveries.

These images show one of the hilots, 50-year-old Eugenia Andaya. After a two-month midwifery course at the NAIC Child Health Centre near Manila, she returned to her village of Labac, a fishing hamlet on the China Sea coast, to resume practice. She had delivered all the women of Labac since she was 18, and could not say how many children she had brought into the world. The images include Eugenia assisting a young mother in childbirth, carefully inspecting her midwifery kit, and showing how she formerly tried to cure fainting in expectant mothers by making the patient drink a juice made of crushed leaves.

Photographer : J. Manevy
Date : 1958
Copyright : WHO

Eugenia and her medical kit

Eugenia inspecting her medical kit

Eugenia prepares a drink made from dried, crushed leaves

Before being trained, Eugenia tried to treat fainting fits with a drink made from dried, crushed leaves

Eugenia helping a young woman to give birth

Eugenia helping a young woman from Labac to give birth

Caring for a mother and her new-born baby

Eugenia looking after a mother and her new-born baby

Eugenia with one of the newborn-babies she has delivered

Eugenia with one of the newborn-babies she has delivered

Eugenia and the children she has helped to bring into the world

Eugenia doesn't know how many babies she has helped to deliver...