Last May 17, the Malaria Stakeholders’ Forum was held in Puerto Princesa, Palawan to review and update the strategy utilized by the Movement Against Malaria (MAM) programme.

Representatives from various agencies and organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO); city, municipal, and provincial Health Offices; Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Philippine National Police (PNP), among others, attended the Forum. Significant achievements in combatting the disease in the province were discussed. However, we are still in the process of elimination. Hence, there is a need to review our strategy. With the general objective of disseminating information to partners in order to strengthen local health system capacities, the forum pushed for the implementation of a malaria elimination strategy focused on attaining zero transmission that we will be able to sustain.

Vicenter Belizario Jr. welcoming everyone to the forum
Vicente Belizario Jr. welcoming everyone with words of motivation and positivity

“We cannot afford more lives to be lost,” Vicente Belizario Jr., Undersecretary, Department of Health (DOH) – Office for Technical Services, uttered in a hopeful tone. It is a simple yet powerful statement. Not only does it direct us towards our goal, but also reminds us that there is nothing more valuable than life itself.

In 2015, there were 8,160 total confirmed malaria cases and 20 malaria-caused deaths in the Philippines. Of the 8,160 cases, 91% were from Palawan.  Some of the problems identified were delayed spraying of residual insecticide, irregular use of bed nets, more exposure to vectors (e.g. sleeping outside the house or near rivers), lack of access to diagnostic facilities, physicians’ non-compliance to treatment protocols, change in mosquito behaviour, and attitude or outlook in life. With that, as Dr. Belizario said in his welcome remarks, we are to explore solutions and not find faults. “We should be prepared to see things that are not entirely acceptable and try to address them,” he added. By following the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA) roadmap to elimination, he is positive that we can achieve a malaria-free Philippines earlier than the 2030 target.

 

APLMA Roadmap Priority Actions

  1. Unite national efforts and regional actions
  2. Map, prevent, test and treat the disease, everywhere
  3. Ensure high quality malaria services, tests, medicines, nets and insecticides
  4. Improve targeting and efficiency to maximize impact
  5. Mobilize domestic financing and leverage external support
  6. Innovate for elimination
Groups discuss their commitments to fight malaria
Group discussion: commitment setting

After identifying key issues, strengths and weaknesses, the representatives of different sectors were grouped accordingly. Armed with great enthusiasm and determination, each team came up with noteworthy commitments to help wipe out malaria in Palawan.  

Closing the forum, Dr. Mary Ann Navarro, Fellow, Philippine Obstetrics & Gynecology Society (FPOGS) Provincial Health Officer emphasized the importance of collaborative effort. Come hell or high water, through the steadfast cooperation of everyone involved in the movement that we started years ago, victory is closer than we think.

By Rachael Nathanielsz

Article published on PSFI news magazine October 2016 issue

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