COTABATO CITY–The Bangsamoro Government, through the Ministry of Health, entered into a new partnership with the United Kingdom (UK) Government and UNICEF, to strengthen and support the Covid-19 prevention efforts in the Bangsamoro region.
On Tuesday, Oct. 19, another project to combat the pandemic was introduced dubbed “Improving COVID-19 Vaccine Acceptance and Overcoming Covid-19 Vaccine Hesitancy and Refusal in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM)”.
This came following the successful implementation of the first Covid-19 Emergency Response in BARMM that ran from August 2020 to March 2021.
This renewed commitment from the UK Government will provide the BARMM’s Bangsamoro Information Office, the Ministry of Health, and the three provincial information offices in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces with technical assistance in communication and behaviour change, wide dissemination of correct messages, training for local health teams on more effective behaviour change communication, promoting Covid-19 vaccinations, and mobilisation of local government authorities for their full support.
“The fight against Covid-19 is far from over, especially with the emergence of new variants. Through the renewed partnership with UNICEF and the UK government, we are confident that we will be able to address misinformation concerns. We have to protect our people, particularly our children,” Chief Minister Ahod B. Ebrahim said.
MOH Director-General Dr. Amirel Usman reported that more than 2-million (2,424,925) eligible population need to be vaccinated in the region in order to achieve herd immunity or about 70-percent of the 2021 BARMM population.
“For our fully vaccinated individuals, we only have 10-percent. So our efforts are way [behind] and it’s not even half of the 70-percent. We have enough supply of vaccine right now but we face several challenges,” Usman said.
Some of the issues and concerns stated were lack of manpower in data management, late reports due to internet connectivity, misinformation, low vaccination rate of A2 and A3 priority groups, some Rural Health Units have no doctors, and preference on the brand of vaccine, among others.
Andrew Morris, UNICEF Chief Field Officer for Mindanao said, “this time, we will be working closely with the Ministry of Health to focus on Covid vaccination. We all know that refusal and hesitancy are really major issues.”
“In this several months partnership project, we will have an extra focus on the islands because it is very diverse with multiple languages. So there is a need for extra communication efforts there,” Morris added.
On the other hand, Iain Cox, political counsellor and CSSF Programme SRO from UK Embassy, said that this year, the Philippines and the United Kingdom are celebrating its 75th year of bilateral. He said this particular project is part of the wider program to support the BARMM.
“The UK had a historical role in the initial negotiation for the Bangsamoro Organic Law, and we wanted to continue that role and support the development of the BARMM, focus in different areas such as supporting the parliament and offering technical assistance,” Cox said.
Meanwhile, MOH Deputy Minister Dr. Zul Qarneyn Abas thanked the UK Government and UNICEF for their continued support in combating not only Covid-19 but other health issues and concerns faced by Bangsamoro communities. (Bangsamoro Information Office)