BARMM gets UNICEF support in strengthened anti-polio campaign

Health officials say no Bangsamoro child must be left unprotected


By Odessa Cruz
Eagle News Service correspondent


COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Eagle News)  – The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is putting all efforts to reach every Bangsamoro child with its strengthened anti-polio vaccination campaign this year.

This, as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) extended technical support to BARMM’s Ministry of Health so that anti-polio vaccination can be carried out even in the remotest Bangsamoro areas.

BARMM kicked off its regional “Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio” in a symbolic rite at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex inside the regional compound in Cotabato City two weeks ago.

UNICEF chief Officer for Mindanao Andrew Morris said the technical assistance came as the outbreak and first cases of polio in the Philippines were recorded last year in the BARMM provinces of Lanao del Sur and Basilan, after 20 years of polio-free status in the country.

“It worried us especially because BARMM saw more cases of polio than any other region in the country. With decades of under investment in essential services, this worried us,” Morris said.

However, in a report presented by MOH-BARMM, they have reached a 98 percent coverage of children during the first two rounds of oral polio vaccination since January this year.

BARMM health officials aimed to achieve a 100 percent coverage for the third round, which is scheduled from July 20 to August 2, with a target of 839,676 children aged under ten years old from the island provinces and under five years old in all other Bangsamoro areas.

Morris commended this development saying BARMM’s performance against polio was surprising as he urged all stakeholders –government officials, health workers and community leaders — to continue working together in order to overcome the challenge amid the COVID 19 pandemic.

“All children have to be reached with polio drops again. We have no choice. If we don’t reach all children, there will be more and more polio campaign in the future. All children have to be reached but they have to be vaccinated safely. We assure that the protocols are in place, no risks to the children, parents and health workers,” Morris said.

-Health workers observing COVID-19 protocols during anti-polio vaccination-

Meanwhile, BARMM Health Minister Dr. Safrullah Dipatuan said health workers out to administer anti-polio drops in the 116 Bangsamoro municipalities are observing anti-COVID-19 protocols.

Dipatuan said they also have a continuing information campaign meant to educate the public about the importance of polio vaccination, urging them to not be afraid of health workers administering the vaccines as they were trained well in this aspect.

UNICEF provides technical support through social mobilization; checking readiness of every municipality in terms of facilities; doing assessments to look for unvaccinated children; and lobbying with BARMM officials to invest more on vaccines and cold storage facilities that will improve delivery of services to farthest areas in BARMM not just in terms of combating polio but all other communicable diseases.

(Eagle News Service)