Southern Leyte cited as model for countrywide effort to wipe out filaria
By Bong Pedalino
Maasin City (February 25) -- Now that Southern Leyte province was able to show that it can be done, eradication of filariasis affliction in other parts of the country should follow in due time.
"Southern Leyte now serves as a model, an inspiration for other provinces," declared Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Mario Villaverde at the Ampil Pensionne here during the program and awarding ceremony that doubles as a celebration for the singular distinction as the first certified filariasis-free province in the Philippines.
"This day mark a very important milestone in the history of the country, for being the first to eradicate lymphatic filariasis," remarked USEC Villaverde, the keynote speaker in the occasion, stressing that "elimination of the disease is possible with the Southern Leyte experience."
Among those who listened to USEC Villaverde's message were the frontline workers out in the field who made sure that that experience was realized in compliance and in its actual implementation, in form and substance.
They included the familiar workaholic forces in the DOH family, from the LGU-led Rural Health Units (RHUs) staff and personnel, the nurses of the Department of Education (DepEd) who interact daily with school children, and the ever-ready barangay health workers who would not hesitate going the rounds of all the households even in dangerous locations.
USEC Villaverde recalled that in the year 2000 forty (40) out of the country's total of eighty (80) provinces where the disease was considered endemic were treated to a mass treatment procedure that went on without fail for the succeeding seven years.
He noted that in the monitoring processes to check the progress of the program in the years 2006, 2007, and 2008, the evaluation results showed a zero incidence of the disease in the province, prompting the DOH to hold a formal declaration of the place as filariasis-free, the first such declaration to be made thus far.
But even as USEC Villaverde expressed heartfelt thanks to all the stakeholders, including the local officials, for their respective roles in the success of the program, he also called attention to the challenges ahead, following the declaration that the world's second cause of debilitating disease can no longer be found in the province.
This was because the neighboring province of Leyte has not yet attained similar level, and so there will always be the possibility that the infection may occur anew, in which case it will be called an epidemic, USEC Villaverde warned.
He advised continuous surveillance and vigilance, again by the tested and proven frontline workers.
And DOH will always backstop this effort, Villaverde said, announcing that a sub-allotment of P 1 Million has been earmarked "to assist Southern Leyte in the conduct of surveillance, promote awareness, and information dissemination" in a serious effort to ward off the disease for good.
Other guests who graced the activity were Dr. Micael Voniatis, Medical Officer of the World Health Organization (WHO), Daisy Sembrano, Executive Director of the Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) Foundation which provided the drugs, Dr. Yolanda Oliveros of the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control, and DOH Regional Director Edgardo Gonzaga. (PIA-Southern Leyte) [top]