SORSOGON CITY, June 13 (PIA) – In 1993, the Province of Sorsogon boasted a record of 73.5% vaccination coverage in a period of one month, the most successful outcome of a rabies elimination project in the province. So effective it was that no animal and human rabies cases were reported three years following the project. Unfortunately, with limited sustained efforts for maintaining freedom, rabies was re-introduced into the province. This time, Sorsogon is determined more than ever to repeat their previous success and reclaim their status as a rabies-free province.
Turning Thoughts into Actions
The rabies elimination program in the province has come a long way, from its conceptualization during the term of former Governor Sally Ante Lee to its implementation initiated by the current Governor, Hon. Raul Lee and spearheaded by the Provincial Veterinary Office (PVO) with Dr. Enrique Espiritu at the helm. The Provincial Government also tapped the participation of the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Provincial Federation wherein the youths from the 541 barangays throughout Sorsogon came together to support the rabies project of the province through an initiative aptly called “Nagkakaisang Kabataan Sa Pagpuksa ng Rabis.”
To strengthen their rabies control efforts, the Province of Sorsogon teamed up with the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC), an international non-profit organization committed to eliminate human deaths from rabies and relieve the burden of rabies in animals, especially dogs. On September 19, 2012, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed between the province and GARC, represented by its Director for Asia, Dr. Mary Elizabeth Miranda.
Though it is good news that the province has recorded a significant decrease in rabies incidence for the past two years with only two human and four positive canine cases reported last year, the Provincial Government still saw the need to address the increasing demand for a rabies control program for the province. Consequently, Governor Raul Lee issued the Executive Order (EO) Number 002 Series of 2013, which allowed the ratification of the ordinances in Section 7 (Pet Owners’ Penalties) of the Republic Act 9482 or the Anti-Rabies Act of 2007 and created a task force to intensify its implementation. While the EO stresses the need to intensify the campaign against rabies, it specifically calls for a more realistic program ensuring the active participation of the local government units through a task force that will be formed in partnership with GARC. In response, local executives particularly the Municipal Mayors have strongly expressed their support to the GARC-Sorsogon Province Rabies Project.
Sorsogon’s Vigor Goes a Long Way
As part of the collaboration between Sorsogon and GARC, the Communities Against Rabies Exposure or CARE Project is currently being implemented in the province. The CARE Project, which is one of GARC’s key initiatives, generally aims to engage government authorities, global scientific community, and above all, communities to develop novel integrated models to include multiple disease and other public health concerns.
Along with Sorsogon, other CARE project sites include the Province of Ilocos Norte, Marikina City, and Cainta Municipality in the Philippines, and Nias Island in Indonesia.
Various activities have already been held leading to the launching of the GARC-Sorsogon Province Rabies Project. On January 28, 2013, more than 300 participants including SK members, representatives from the Provincial and City Veterinary Office, Barangay Officials, and Barangay Health Workers, among others participated in the Orientation-Training for Vaccinators and Barangay Bantay Rabies Committee (Technical Working Group). Local officials, including Sorsogon City Councilor Hon. Iñigo Destacamento and Sorsogon City Mayor, Hon. Leovic Dioneda also graced the event. A Knowledge, Attitude, and Practices (KAP) Survey, which involved the Provincial Health Office was also conducted last February 18 to March 1, 2013.
As a recipient of the CARE project, vaccination kits and other vaccination paraphernalia were distributed during the Vaccinators’ Training and Orientation. Tarpaulins, posters, and billboards have been installed in several strategic places, and localized materials such as brochures were distributed in a bid to intensify the rabies Advocacy, Communication, and Education (ACE) campaign of the province.
In line with the annual celebration of the Rabies Awareness Month in March, the GARC-Sorsogon Province Rabies Project was formally launched in the Municipality of Bulan, Sorsogon last March 5, 2013. The Launching was well-attended by the Mayors and Municipal Agriculturists of the different municipalities and representatives from the PVO, Governor’s Office, SK Provincial Federation, and GARC, among others. One of the highlights of the event was the signing of a symbolic declaration by the participants, signifying their commitment and involvement towards attaining a rabies-free Sorsogon.
According to Provincial Veterinarian, Dr. Enrique Espiritu, the GARC-Sorsogon Province Rabies Project seeks to eliminate the transmission of rabies from one dog to another by vaccinating at least 70% of the total dog population in the area. In this case, their goal is to vaccinate at least 70% of the 52,121 dogs throughout the province within two months. To achieve this target, mass dog vaccinations were carried out all over Sorsogon from April to May 2013. With a group of veterinarians on the lead, the SK members were also trained and tapped as volunteer vaccinators.
The PVO has recorded 3,655 dogs vaccinated, in just a span of three weeks after the Vaccinators’ Training in January. Dr. Espiritu also reported that more than a thousand doses of dog vaccines were initially distributed to the towns of Irosin, Donsol, Magallanes, and Pilar. While the vaccination is still ongoing, a total of 15,843 dogs and cats have been vaccinated throughout the province as of May, 2013.
The road to achieving a rabies-free community may be arduous but the Provincial Government of Sorsogon is optimistic that this can be accomplished through the unwavering support and active participation of the Sorsoganons. The GARC-Sorsogon Rabies Project has given the province a head start on their rabies elimination project and with their current efforts, Sorsogon is undoubtedly on its way to becoming a rabies-free province. (Dane Medina, GARC Communications Officer with inputs from Ms. Benilda Recebido, PIA Sorsogon & Mr. Von Andre Labalan, PIO Sorsogon)