The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child obliges its parties to take appropriate measures to combat disease and promote the children's welfare. Under the Sustainable Development Goals, the target is to end the epidemics of malaria, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases. Like we said in our previous blog, there is still a long way for children's welfare and health to be secured in the Philippines, especially for those living in poverty, as they have limited access to proper health care and prevention.
The goal for the Philippines is to reduce the malaria prevalence to less than 1 case per 100,000 population by 2022, and believe it or not, we appear to be on a good track to meet this goal. Deaths attributed to malaria have been steadily decreasing since the 1990s. However, the geographic range and incidence of malaria are dependent on weather and climate, which means that increasing temperatures and changes in climate such as El Niño can contribute to malaria epidemics.
Around 3 million cases of tuberculosis per year in South East Asia, while 2 million people die per year worldwide from this bacterial disease. The Philippines has one of the highest incidences of TB and it is the 6th leading cause of death in the country. However, the good news is that these numbers are slowly going down. Much of the improvement in TB-related deaths can be attributed to efforts by the National TB Control Programme to make diagnostic and treatment services more accessible, especially in vulnerable areas. The target for tuberculosis incidence is a rate of 225 per 100,000 by 2022.
The Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) was launched in 1976 to ensure all Filipino children and mothers have access to routinely recommended vaccines, but the Philippines is still among the group of 5 countries with the highest number of unimmunized children and only 70% of children were fully immunized in 2014. Because of this, children are more vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases such as Rubella (Measles), Hepatitis, etc. Even polio, which was eradicated in the Philippines for over 19 years, began to resurface in 2019 due to a lack of vaccination in children.
Immunization saves 2 to 3 million lives each year, but there is a multitude of reasons why children grow unvaccinated. Whether it is a lack of education on the importance of vaccines or its inaccessibility, it is a child's right to be safe and protected from these diseases by providing them with accessible medical care and a clean, healthy environment.