Ensure Filipino Children's Health Amidst COVID - 19
“We have a fragile, weak and ill-equipped health care system, and this became more apparent in the face of the Covid19 global pandemic.” This was the reaction of the Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns in response to the recently released UNICEF report that about two million Filipino children might miss out on vaccination while the country battles the corona virus 2019 (COVID-19).
“Vaccine-preventable and treatable diseases tend to surge in times of pandemics, when public health care systems are overwhelmed by the outbreaks. The spread of COVID-19 in the country has undeniably created additional barriers for children’s access to government immunization programs. With virtually the entire healthcare and medical system focused on COVID-19 patients, other health concerns have been neglected or de-prioritized. This is worrisome where children are concerned,” said Salinlahi Secretary General Eule Rico Bonganay.
Bonganay said that “While the corona virus pandemic may pose less severe impact on children, government must still give emphasis on child health by taking concrete steps to raise their immune systems to prevent other kinds of epidemics from breaking out.”
The group criticized the health agency for its failure to address the problems haunting the country’s immunization programs which was aggravated by the Dengvaxia issue. The lack of a strong immunization program, as well as the general deterioration of the health situation in the country has resulted to numerous dengue and measles outbreaks, and the resurgence of the long-eradicated polio.
“The DOH is yet to give the public a clear picture on how it integrated maternal and child health in its plan to address the COVID-19. Although it reiterated the need for the continuity of immunization programs, there is no clear guidance on how to comply since most of the Barangay health centers are closed and community health volunteers are dedicated to assist in the COVID-19 response,” Bonganay stressed.
“Government must ensure efficient and sustained immunization programs and adequate nutrition for children. The timely and inclusive implementation of the Social Amelioration Program should have provided families with the minimum means to provide for children’s nutrition. Unfortunately, SAP’s implementation has been quite the opposite – snail pace, and tends to be exclusive,” he said.
He also noted that since many of the public hospitals were converted into COVID-19 referral centers such as Philippine General Hospital (UP PGH) and the East Avenue Medical Center, many of the non-COVID-19 patients are left with no choice but to go to private hospitals.
“This even increased the costs of medical services for many families, something that even many middle-class families will be unable to meet as they have no income at the moment.
“Paano na ang mga kababayan nating na isang kahig, isang tuka? Wala na ngang masustansyang pagkain para sa kanilang mga anak at pamilya, dagdag na pasanin pa ang paghahanap ng pera pambayad sa mamamahaling mga pribadong ospital kung sila man ay magkakasakit,” Bonganay emphasized.
The imposition of enhanced community quarantine and the lack of alternative public transport systems aggravate the current inaccessibility of non-COVID medical services.
The child rights group urged the health department to be more pro-active in its response to the current crisis while giving utmost importance to other health issues especially when it concerns children. “While it can be understood that the health department is confronting a pandemic which necessitates full attention, it should also consider the delivery of vaccines to children in order to mitigate possible outbreaks of other vaccine-preventable diseases,” Bonganay opined.
In particular, Salinlahi demanded the government to increase information campaign about the importance of vaccines and immediately hire more community health personnel to facilitate a more comprehensive child healthcare program that relies on vaccinations, proper hygiene and good nutrition. ####
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