MANILA — A children’s advocacy group on Friday appealed to parents to complete the immunization of their children before reaching two years old to ensure their healthy growth and survival.
Save the Children Philippines (SCP) chief executive officer, lawyer Albert Muyot, said children need not die of preventable diseases, such as measles.
Amid the measles outbreak in different regions in the country, Muyot called on community health workers to intensify their information drive to reach out to parents and guardians for the immunization of children while stressing that the First 1,000 Days law mandates national agencies, including Department of Health (DOH), and local government units to ensure the children’s proper health and nutrition, including complete immunization.
“The law is already in place to make sure children are given a healthy start in life through interventions, such as complete immunization, including the measles vaccine,” he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, SCP health and nutrition advisor Dr. Amado Parawan, said complete immunization is highly critical to a child’s survival in the first 1,000 days of his life, which is up to two years old.
“Failure to complete immunization could cause a child’s death before reaching two years old, which is happening now to children with measles,” Parawan added.
On Wednesday, the DOH confirmed a measles outbreak in the National Capital Region (NCR) after the number rose by 550 percent or 196 cases in Metro Manila from January 1 to February 6 this year, compared to only 20 cases recorded in the same period last year.
About 55 deaths from measles at the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila have been recorded. Most of the deaths involved children from three months to four years old. About 248 children are still being treated for the disease at the San Lazaro Hospital.
Citing the steady decline in the immunization rate, Parawan feared that more children would die of preventable diseases. Thus, SCP is developing a scorecard program for local government units (LGUs) to monitor the immunization rate for children in barangay centers, he said.
“Every day, 95 children in the Philippines die of preventable deaths due to malnutrition, and the measles outbreak aggravates the problem. The scorecard will hold the LGUs accountable to provide acceptable coverage of all prescribed immunization as part of the child rights programming mandate,” he said.
The DOH said the vaccine coverage rate has plunged to 40 percent last year from 70 percent in 2017. In the first three quarters of last year, the number of non-vaccinated children rose to more than 960,000 from some 850,000 a year earlier.
With 3.3 million stunted and 800,000 malnourished children, the Philippines ranks ninth among 10 countries in the world with the worst cases of stunting and malnutrition, along with famine- and conflict-stricken countries in Sub Saharan Africa.
The SCP is an independent group that upholds Filipino children’s rights and helps them learn crucial skills to have a bright future. It pushed for the enactment of the First 1,000 Days law that scales up nutrition support for mothers and children in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, which is the crucial window of opportunity to ensure that mothers and children in the Philippines achieve optimum development.
It also has been implementing maternal and child health and nutrition programs among poor families in Navotas, Malabon, Caloocan through access to immunization, prenatal check-ups for pregnant mothers and training of community health workers. (PNA) By Ma. Teresa Montemayor