By Edwin Fernandez
COTABATO CITY: To boost its campaign against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), through its Ministry of Health (MOH), has entered into a new partnership with the United Kingdom (UK) government and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
“Primarily, the partnership aims to strengthen and support the Covid-19 prevention efforts in the Bangsamoro region,” Dr. Bashary Latiph, BARMM health minister, told reporters here Wednesday.
Latiph said another project to combat the pandemic was introduced dubbed “Improving COVID-19 Vaccine Acceptance and Overcoming Covid-19 Vaccine Hesitancy and Refusal in the BARMM,” following the successful implementation of the first Covid-19 Emergency Response in BARMM that ran from August 2020 to March 2021.
Under the new project, the UK government will provide the region’s Bangsamoro Information Office, the MOH, and the provincial information offices in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, with technical assistance in communication and behavior change, the wide dissemination of correct messages, the training of local health teams on effective behavior change communication, promoting Covid-19 vaccinations, and the mobilization of local government authorities for their full support.
In a statement, BARMM Chief Minister Ahod B. Ebrahim said 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, he added that the region remains confident that it will be able to address misinformation concerns.
“We have to protect our people against the disease, particularly our children,” Ebrahim said.
To achieve population protection, MOH-BARMM needs to vaccinate some 2.4 million individuals or about 70 percent of the 2020 BARMM population, according to MOH Director-General Dr. Amirel Usman.
Usman admitted that the regional office is facing several issues in its efforts to improve the fight against the pandemic and other health problems.
These include the lack of manpower in data management, late reports due to internet connectivity, misinformation, the low vaccination rate of A2 (senior citizens) and A3 (persons with comorbidities) priority groups, absence of doctors in some rural health units, and preference on the brand of vaccine, among others.
“This time, we will be working closely with the MOH to focus on Covid-19 vaccination. We all know that refusal and hesitancy are really major issues,” said Andrew Morris, UNICEF Chief Field Officer for Mindanao.
“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,” he added.
Iain Cox, political counselor, and Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund (CSSF) program officer from the UK Embassy, meanwhile announced that the Philippines and the UK government are celebrating their 75th year of bilateral relations.
Cox said the particular project forms 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,” he said.
(Philippine News Agency)