By Ellson Quismorio
Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. (PSFI) is zeroing in on four provinces as far as its efforts to help the government eradicate malaria are concerned.
“The mission to help communities does not stop until 100 percent elimination is achieved,” PSFI Executive Director Sebastian Quiñones Jr. said at a panel discussion with the DoH held in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.
“At-risk indigenous people are located in specific terrains and territories that are not as easy to reach and help,” Quiñones noted.
According to the Department of Health (DOH), only four provinces in the country remain afflicted by malaria, namely Palawan, Sulu, Occidental Mindoro, and Sultan Kudarat.
PSFI has taken special measures to effectively stamp out the disease before the country’s 2030 deadline to eliminate the infection. In addition to sending regular volunteer expeditions into the mountains, the Foundation has hired anthropologists to study the groups in order to develop non-disruptive methods for providing aid.
“We need to come up with proper sensitivities and strategies before we begin any efforts,” Quiñones said.
Malaria was once among the top 10 causes of morbidity in the Philippines in 1999. Through the combined effort of the PSFI, the DOH, and local government units across the nation, malaria cases have dropped from over 50,000 in Palawan alone in 1999, to less than 5,000 in 2018.
As of the end of 2018, out of 81 provinces in the country, 50 have already been declared malaria-free, while 27 are in the elimination phase.
The resounding success of the concerted effort to fight the infection has attracted millions of dollars in global aid. What started in 1999 as Kilusan Ligtas Malaria (KLM), a community-driven social volunteer program created to fight malaria in Palawan, grew into the nationwide Movement Against Malaria (MAM) effort in 2009 when a US$31.4 million grant from the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (GFATM) was awarded to PSFI.
“The MAM program values its partnerships, particularly with the government, for a more widespread and effective approach to tackle the malaria-free mission,” PSFI Deputy Executive Director Marvi Trudeau said.
“In partnering with the DOH and the local government units, we’ve seen an 88 percent drop in reported malaria cases as well as a 99 percent drop in deaths due to the disease, based on the 2003 baseline,“ said Trudeau, who has been with the program since the beginning.
The program received another grant for 2018-2020 to tackle the last four highly endemic provinces, which has made Quiñones confident that the Philippines can achieve its target to be malaria-free by 2030.