Photo by J. Likha Yatco
The 108-year-old Gota de Leche (to mean “drop of milk” in Spanish) has built a reputation of working for the welfare of children under five years. The organization La Proteccion de la Infancia, under whose aegis Gota de Leche operates, was born out of the ashes of the Filipino-American War. That was when Filipino mothers and children suffered from different degrees of malnutrition.
In a report to the Manila Medical Society entitled “The Problem of supplying poor children the appropriate nourishment and formation to the mothers,” Dr. Fernando Calderón wrote about “the deeds done to the date by Gota de Leche, unique in Manila, and the people that most needs its attention. The deeds were done thanks to the unselfish, patriotic and humanitarian efforts of the association La Protección de la Infancia, and specially the work done by the doctors that figure in this institution. To help this project, these doctors have contributed with their expertise, their personal efforts and their personal funding.” (Source: L.G.L., Renacimiento Filipino illustrated magazine of science, arts, literature, industry, business and agriculture edited by Martín Ocampo, Year 1, number 21, 7th Dec. 7, 1910)
In the new millennium, the non-stock, non-profit Gota de Leche is expanding its program beyond feeding and monitoring the health of children at their formative years. It is including the health of the mothers, too. It is starting to give formal medical advice for women in response to the World Health Organization’s initiatives for safe motherhood.
Recent research findings show that mothers often place health needs of children and partners before their own. Gota de Leche is also educating families on proper nutrition (the brown rice component). The same findings have shown that when a mother’s health is strong or improved, the entire family benefits.
Included in Gota de Leche’s future plans are a free-standing clinic and a play area for children. There are plans to make available facilities for a mother’s clinic: expanded services on reproductive health, regular Pap smears and screenings for breast cancer and counseling.
Gota de Leche, with future partnerships with women’s organizations, continues to address the integrated health concerns of marginalized women and children.