Back in the ’90s, the Philippines used to be a hotbed of Malaria cases. Two decades in, the country is close to becoming totally Malaria-free.
Health officials and health advocates, however, believe that there is still much to accomplish to completely rid the country of this dreaded disease.
In the Kapihan sa Manila Hotel held last week, Department of Health national malaria coordinator Dr. Raffy Deray stressed that the country is definitely on its way to being malaria-free, thanks to efforts of private-sector health advocates who have worked hand-in-hand with the government to curb the dreaded disease.
Deray revealed that the number of malaria cases in the country has dropped significantly in recent years.
“Contrary to popular belief, the malaria situation in the country is much better now than our neighboring countries in the ASEAN and even in the Asian region,” Deray said.
Probably the most successful anti-malaria program initiated in the country is the program initiated by Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. in Palawan in 1999.
Initially referred to as the Kilusan Ligtas Malaria, the program got off the ground with a P36-million grant from Shell Philippines Exploration B.V., with the province of Palawan as its pilot area.
“When we saw that the biggest problem of Palawan was its Malaria situation, we in PSFI decided to address this issue and started KLM immediately,” said Edgar Veron Cruz, PSFI executive director.
Right from the start, PSFI’s KLM had to contend with 78,000 malaria cases in the province with an average of 100 deaths per year.
The project’s components included early diagnosis and prompt treatment, vector control, social mobilization and advocacy, and an information drive and communications for behavioral change.
By 2006, malaria cases in Palawan had dropped to about 12,000, with 21 deaths. Impressed, the Swiss-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria, decided to support the program, which was then renamed Movement Against Malaria.
The number of malaria cases has since continued to decline steadily, and what was just an initiative in Palawan became a nationwide anti-malaria program.
In 2011, largely because of the success in Palawan, the Philippines achieved the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal of halting and reversing malaria ahead of its 2015 deadline.
Cruz said they are also working with the DoH in setting up elimination hubs in 83 provinces which will be supplied with stockpile of medicines and manned by qualified workers.
“In almost 20 years of fighting malaria, the PSFI has achieved something that no corporation or group in the country ever has,” said PSFI Program Manager Marvi Trudeau. “There are now only seven provinces that still have malaria, including Palawan.”
“The Pilipinas Shell Foundation will continue to work with the government in order to fight Malaria. Our timeline is to aim for total eradication by 2030,” she added.
“PSFI’s KLM program did not only better the lives of the people of Palawan, KLM has grown into what is now the national Movement Against Malaria. The KLM experience tells us that victories can be made, effective leaders can be engaged, communities mobliized, and alliances formed to strengthen country efforts in achieving its malaria targets DOH Secretary Francisco” Duque said.
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