October 19, 2007

COTABATO CITY – The Department of Health-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DOH-ARMM) spearheads ‘Oplan Alis Tigdas’ in the region as part of the national campaign to eliminate measles in the country.

The one-month (from October 15 to November 15, 2007) regionwide campaign, which commenced a week ago, aims to vaccinate children aged nine (9) months to four (4) years old from measles in the six-province and two-city autonomous region.

Children will be given immunizations such as DPT, OPV, BCG and vaccines against Hepatitis B measles. The region’s health office will also distribute deworming tablets, Vitamin A supplementation and other supplements to fight malnutrition and medicines against filariasis in the provinces of Maguindanao, Sulu, Basilan and Marawi city.

DOH-ARMM Secretary Tahir Sulaik led the first leg of the door-to-door measles elimination campaign at the municipality of Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao. The team then proceeded to the province of Basilan, catering to around 5, 715 children. Dr. Eric Tayag, Director of the National Epidemiological Center, was among those who went to the area.

DOH Secretary Francisco T. Duque III was in Marawi City on Thursday, October 18, to personally head the launching of the campaign in the city and the province of Lanao del Sur.

The campaign will be officially launched in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi on Tuesday, October 19.

In a press conference, DOH-ARMM estimates that around 27,000 and 76,000 children need to be vaccinated in Marawi city and Lanao del Sur, respectively.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative to the Philippines Dr. Nicholas Alipui, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative Dr. Howard Sobell and Dra. Geraldine Macapeges of DOH-ARMM were also in Marawi City to support the campaign.

Dr. Sulaik urges all parents to cooperate for the success of the measles campaign and implored partner organizations to continue helping the regional government in its priority programs.

“I am so happy with the initial outcome of our Oplan Alis Tigdas campaign. For five (5) days, we reached almost half of our target beneficiaries. I hope that our partners will continue to help us in our endeavors,” he said.

Meanwhile, Regional Governor Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan released an Executive Order for the proper implementation of the campaign in the region.

Dr. Alipui expressed support to the national campaign of the Philippine government against the proliferation of measles in the country especially in the autonomous region. “We appeal to all mothers not to disregard the measles campaign especially the Internally Displaced Children, the disadvantaged and to people living in far-flung areas who often can’t access to these programs due to distance.”

He also said that UNICEF has prepared additional programs for the children in the autonomous region.

Secretary Duque, who disclosed that the national government has allotted P7 million budget for the countrywide campaign of measles elimination, challenged all leaders in the autonomous region especially the health department to intensify the campaign against measles. “Measles should not be ignored. This is a dangerous and fatal infection if not addressed immediately,” Duque ended.

Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus that is easily and very rapidly transmitted through air or direct contact. Infected children will experience complications including pneumonia, encephalitis, blindness, deafness, ear infection, diarrhea and dehydration. (bpi-armm)