PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan: The Department of Health (DOH)-Mimaropa office is optimistic that the province of Palawan can attain its target of being malaria-free by 2020, said regional director Eduardo Janairo, a medical doctor.
Janairo, who was in the city for the National Malaria Awareness Day-9th Malaria Congress, said last week the province might already be malaria-free by next year because the DOH-Mimaropa is certain to give “all out support” to attain the target.
“Yes, we hope we can achieve that. There is a possibility that it might be achieved, especially next year because we will give all the support. We don’t care whether fund is from foreign-assisted project or local-assisted project but Mimaropa Region will do something about that. We will put funds into it,” Janairo told the Philippine News Agency.
The regional health director added it is about time “everybody should be worried about malaria” as the Philippines has experienced it for so many years.
“But we have to understand that malaria, its elimination is development, or urbanization. All areas in Manila used to have malaria in the past. But now it has almost zero malaria because the breeding areas are no longer conducive for them. Change of environment can cause removal of malaria,” he explained.
However, he said that in Mimaropa, particularly in Palawan, there is no need to change the environment as residents only need to keep their surroundings clean.
Janairo said malaria prevention methods that are due for implementation by the regional health office are the fitting of all public and private school windows with screens, and the regular conduct of airborne spraying of insect repellent compounds to control mosquito population.
The other prevention method is the conduct of blood testing or smearing for malaria parasite to ensure people are disease-free.
“You cannot say that a person has no malaria unless he/she is tested. Here in Palawan, if you think that a person has no malaria because he/she is not showing symptoms, you can still be wrong as there are asymptomatic cases,” Janairo stated, adding they have proven it.
“We have to test each and every inhabitant in Palawan for malaria, and the other provinces in Mimaropa,” he stated.
Decreasing number of cases
According to Palawan’s control program Kilusan Ligtas Malaria (KLM), an estimated 53,451 cases of malaria with 85 deaths were recorded in 1999.
By 2014, the figure went down to 4,206 cases with five mortalities, but increased again to 7,437 in 2015 with 13 deaths. All would amount to 86 percent decrease in cases, and the same percentage in deaths.
From January to November this year, the KLM recorded again a 41 percent decrease or 3,400 cases out of 146,256 tested compared to the same period in 2016 where 6,136 cases were recorded.
The top five municipalities with the highest cases of malaria this year are Rizal with 1,294; Balabac with 686; Bataraza with 656; Brooke’s Point with 360 and Quezon with 142 – all in southern Palawan. In Puerto Princesa, 91 cases were still recorded.
No case has been documented in the municipalities of Busuanga, Culion, Coron, and Linapacan in the Calamianes Islands Group in the northern part of the province.
“Despite this, we still cannot say these towns are malaria-free. We need to validate,” Janairo said.
For the province’s malaria control program, eradication will no longer be a problem if residents stop their belief in traditional healers, poor compliance to diagnosis and treatment protocol, and self-medication.