July 27, 2010
Talaingod, Davao Del Norte — An outbreak of rash, fever and colds, and diarrhea – all symptoms of measles disease have been reported to be spreading in the remote Ata-Manobo villages of here. This was the alarming report received by the PASAKA Regional Confederation of Indigenous Peoples in Southern Mindanao and Katribu from the community leaders in the area.
“Nikaylap na ang sakit sa mga komunidad sa Talaingod. Aduna na’y mga balita nga adunay mga nangamatay, labi na sa mga bata, tungod niining sakit. Grabe ang amoang kabalaka hilabi na sa kahimtang nga wala’y serbisyong panglawas o mga tambal nga duol sa amoang mga komunidad. Mamatay na lamang ang pasyente tunga-tunga sa kadalanan aron makaabot lang sa sentrong bahin sa munisipyo aron mangayo og hinabang medikal,” (The disease has already spread through the remote villages of Talaingod. There are already reports of fatalities especially among the children. We fear for the worst especially since Ata -Manobo communities do not have access even to the most basic health services, especially to medicines that will prevent the deaths of the victims. The victims may die in the middle of the road going to the nearest hospital just to get medical help.) said Datu Duloman Dawsay, a tribal leader of the local Manobo group SALUGPUNGAN TA TANU IGKANUGON.
According to the estimate of medical health groups under the RX for Peace that conducted an initial survey in the area, the disease has already affected 7 communities or 230 households. If unmitigated, the disease will spread to 8 more communities and will endanger additional 347 households.
“We fear that the indigenous way of quarantine has failed to contain the outbreak in Talaingod. Decisive and urgent measures to prevent the escalation of the measles incidence should be done at once to prevent more fatalities. The effects of measles puts the Ata – Manobos in a more serious danger considering the existing problem of malnutrition and hunger in the area,” said Diolito Diarog, PASAKA leader.
Diarog explains that Ata-Manobos, once inflicted with a disease avoid passing by communities which have not yet been affected so as to avoid communicating the disease. But with this traditional practice, ailing patients must traverse unpopulated areas and therefore becomes more vulnerable. In the past week, a measles patient has reportedly died on his way to seek for medical help.
PASAKA and Katribu attributes the dismal plight of the people of Talaingod to the government’s abject neglect of providing free and accessible health programs for the rural poor.
“The problem in Talaingod is a result of the deteriorating health services and poverty instituted by a corrupt and anti-poor government. Indigenous peoples are most vulnerable to epidemics and outbreaks of supposedly curable diseases because they are the most impoverished and discriminated sector in the country,” said Kerlan Fanagel, Katribu Regional Coordiator.
Katribu and PASAKA appeals to the concerned local government units and other concerned groups and individuals to join the crisis intervention efforts being launched by medical groups and other concerned NGOs for the people of Talaingod.
“The emergency situation in Talaingod calls for immediate action and the sympathy and solidarity of different groups and individuals,” Fanagel urged.
Datu Doloman Dawsay
Salupongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon (Talaingod)