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Thursday, January 9, 2014

DOH’s Poor Handling of Measles Outbreak: Telling Signs of Looming Health Disaster to Come in Typhoon Ravaged Areas of Leyte and Samar



“The recent measles outbreak and the government’s poor response in containing it appeared to be a very fearful precedent of other possible health disasters in typhoon ravaged areas of Leyte and Samar”, said Samahang Operasyong Sagip (SOS) President Rosalinda C. Tablang.

 The year 2013 ended with a sharp increase in the number of measles cases, especially in Metro Manila. Of the 1,724 confirmed cases, 744 were recorded in the metropolitan region. Outbreaks have already been announced by the Department of Health (DOH) in 9 cities of Metro Manila, namely Manila, Caloocan, Las Piñas, Malabon, Muntinlupa, Navotas, Parañaque, Taguig and Valenzuela.

 The DOH has blamed the poor access of health services in poverty-stricken areas, unwillingness of parents in vaccinating their children and the influx of people from typhoon hit areas of Leyte and Samar to the recent outbreak.

Tablang shared that the DOH has the mandate to abate, control and monitor public health.  The DOH implemented the foreign-assisted ten-year “Alis Tigdas” Program from 1990 to 2008. But in 2007, the DOH already admitted that it failed to reach one hundred percent target to immunize children against measles.  In July 2011, it re-launched another anti-measles program “Iligtas ang Pinas Sa Tigdas” aiming again towards measles eradication.

“One would ask, what have the government decisively done with the measles problem if they have known the problem as early as 2007? The past anti-measles programs were just all hype and relied heavily on an approach that is immunization-focused.   Health education and information are lacking,” furthered Tablang

“Instead of owning up to its failure, the DOH has been quick to blame the patients and their parents, and even the very victims of Typhoon Yolanda for the recent outbreak. This is telling of how the DOH will react to other threats of health disasters, such as what we are seeing now in Leyte and Samar”, added Tablang.

The SOS has been conducting medical missions and relief distribution operations since November 2013. Ailments observed in patients from the first medical mission up to the most recent have been similar. The most common medical cases in adults include upper respiratory tract infections, acute gastro-enteritis and hypertension and tension headache. For children, these were cough and colds, fever and diarrhea.

Tablang expressed that outbreaks after natural disasters occur when there is a substantial displacement of people. Along with this, poor access to basic needs, such as safe potable water, proper sanitation, adequate shelter and health care services, play a role in increasing disease transmission.

“More than 2 months after the typhoon struck, scarcity of necessities, such as food, potable water and shelter, still pose as an everyday problem. With the DOH poorly handling the measles outbreak, especially in Metro Manila where there are relatively more health centers and hospitals, we can only imagine how it will be for those in Leyte and Samar.” ##

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