The Department of Health (DOH) said that the International Health Regulations (2005) Joint External Evaluation (IHR–JEE) has been concluded as it aims to assess the country’s preparedness for disease outbreaks and public-health emergencies.
From September 9 to 14, international experts involved in 19 technical areas, to name a few: food safety, disease surveillance, outbreak response and public health emergency preparedness, have been working with representatives from the various departments of the government to conduct the JEE.
The DOH has requested the external experts to visit the country to review the current status and identify opportunities to further strengthen the country’s preparedness.
The JEE process was developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in consultation with member-states and partners to help countries evaluate their capacity to prevent, detect and respond to infectious diseases and other public-health threats. This includes a set of core capacities required under the International Health Regulations (2005)—a global legal framework signed by 196 countries, including the Philippines.
“The DOH, with its partner agencies like Department of Agriculture, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Philippine National Police, Philippine Army, Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, and the National Security Council, is committed to protecting the lives and health of people in the Philippines and other countries by preventing and responding to disease outbreaks and other public-health emergencies,” said Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III.
“We will only be able to stop the spread of diseases by working together—not only among the health sector but also with all the relevant departments in our government.”
The Philippines faces outbreaks of diseases time after time, such as measles, influenza, dengue or leptospirosis; not to mention the threat of Zika, avian influenza, and other public-health threats of international concern.
With an ever-increasing volume of international travel and trade, the Philippines, like many other countries, is vulnerable to the importation of emerging infectious diseases, which often causes complex and considerable significant social consequences and substantial economic losses.
“The more the country is prepared, the more lives will be saved,” said Dr. Gundo Weiler, WHO representative in the Philippines.
“I commend the leadership of the Philippines in volunteering for a Joint External Evaluation. This will pave the way for the country to understand its current situation and know how to further strengthen its national systems to prevent the international spread of diseases,” he added.
The debriefing of the mission was held on September 14 in Manila, summarizing key findings and recommendations on priority actions. “The Philippines has developed strong technical capabilities in various areas, such as its field epidemiology training program, disease surveillance and national health laboratory system,” said Dr. Mark Salter from Public Health England, who served as the leader of the international team of experts.
“With improved coordination across agencies, and optimized investment at local units, the Philippines has the ability to further strengthen its public health emergency preparedness and response capacities,” he furthered.
The Philippines will use the recommendations of the Joint External Evaluation mission to strengthen its health security systems. Other countries to have conducted a JEE in the western Pacific region include Australia, Cambodia, the Federated States of Micronesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Mongolia, the Republic of Korea, Singapore and Vietnam.
Gov. Marcos initiates setup of animal shelters in low-lying areas
In a precautionary bid to minimize losses in the livestock sector during Typhoon Ompong (international code name Mangkhut), Gov. Imee R. Marcos had initiated the construction of animal shelters in low-lying and flood-prone areas in Ilocos Norte.
On September 13 and 14, the provincial government of Ilocos Norte through the Provincial Veterinary Office (PVet) provided canvas cloths, water and more or less 400 bags of starter and grower feeds, which barangay residents and officials used to set up the shelters and sustain the animals.
Provision of such was also aimed at convincing residents to evacuate their homes, as provincial veterinarian Dr. Loida Valenzuela pointed out their hesitance to leave their homes and their livestock, a source of livelihood.
“Kaya ayaw nilang mag-evacuate dahil nandoon yung livelihood nila sa residence nila, sa vulnerable areas. Kaya ito ang naisip ng Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte, particularly with the pronouncement of the governor na, ‘Magbigay tayo ng pakain, baka sakaling mahatak yung mga tao to bring their animals to the animal shelter as they also bring themselves to the evacuation centers.’”
The governor had said, “’yung ibang farmers, gustong magpaiwan sa bahay dahil binabantayan ang mga alagang baka o baboy. Sana ipagkatiwala na lang sa PVet na kaya natin itong bantayan para maiwasan na may masawi sa pag-rescue.”