507 Subanon kids received measles vaccine
Sisa Medianero didn’t know what to do when all five of her children, aged 2 to 10, contracted the measles virus. Lilet, her 9-year old daughter, was among the 30 Subanons, mostly children, who were severely infected during a recent measles outbreak in Canatuan, their ancestral domain in the mountainous eastern portion of Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte.Sisa, a former small-scale miner and unhappy about the arrival of the large-scale mining operations of TVI Resource Development Philippines, Inc. (TVIRD) in their area, had nowhere to turn. The nearest hospital is some 30 kilometers away and her sick children, especially Lilet, needed immediate medical attention. She decided to seek the help of TVIRD, which runs a round-the-clock clinic, complete with a medical staff, for its employees and members of its host communities. It was a decision that Sisa eventually realized was a good one. Lilet’s life was saved, and the Subanon mother said she could never thank the company enough.
The Medianeros. Lilet, in orange shirt, was among those severely infected in the measles virus outbreak in Canatuan. Her mother, Sisa, a vocal critic of TVIRD, thanked the company profusely for saving her daughter’s life.
“Ako mapasalamaton ug dako sa TVIRD sa pagtabang sa akong anak. Kung wala pa kini mahatagan sa pagtagad sa clinic, hayan adunay dili maayo mahitabo sa akong anak (I am very greatful to TVIRD for helping my child. If she was not given due attention by the clinic staff, something bad could have happened to my daughter),” said Sisa.
Lilet was eventually referred and brought to the Siocon town hospital for further medical care, using TVIRD facilities and financial support.
Elsa Bason Absalon, also a Subanon, had the same dilemma. Her three children, 6 months to 5 years-old, were also afflicted with measles. Her 3 year-old son Robert had high fever and diarrhea. Fearing for her offspring’s lives, she brought them immediately to the company clinic.
Alarmed and fearing the further spread of the virus in the community and adjacent barangays, TVIRD management assigned its medical team to wage an anti-measles campaign in the area. Children from ages 9 to 48 months were administered with measles vaccine. A total to 507 children, mostly Subanon from Canatuan and surrounding communities received the vaccine. The outbreak was arrested.
Above, TVIRD midwife Malou Prestoza (in pink hat), and below, TVIRD nurse Loi Ladera-Esnane administer anti-measles vaccine to Subanon children right where they live in remote barrios near Canatuan. “We take care of the health of our Subanon hosts as well as we do our employees,” says company doctor Ramil Ignacio.”
“We take care of the health of our Subanon hosts as well as we do our own employees,” Dr. Ramil Ignacio, physician of TVIRD Canatuan, said. “The outbreak, if left unattended, could affect a large number of Subanon children and could even lead to death in some cases, considering that many children here are malnourished and, therefore, have weak immune systems.”
Complications with measles are common especially in remote and isolated areas where medical services are not available. These complications may include severe diarrhea, pneumonia and encephalitis.
During the campaign, Dr. Ignacio’s team found out that, because of the inaccessibility of health services in the area, more than 30 percent of the measles-afflicted children, with an average age of six, never had the required initial dose of the measles vaccine.
For many years before TVIRD began its gold and silver mining operations in Canatuan, indigenous people in the mountain communities of Siocon had to travel several kilometers through rough terrain and across rivers to the town proper to be able to get medical attention. There were no roads or bridges back then.
As soon as the Canatuan Project commenced in mid-2004 by virtue of a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement between TVIRD and the Philippine government, the company helped pave roads and assisted in the construction of steel bridges along the Ipil-Canatuan route to the west, and the Canatuan-Siocon Proper route to the east. TVIRD also put up a clinic and schools in and around Canatuan.
The TVIRD clinic serves the community, with a doctor, a nurse, a midwife and nursing aides on-call on a 24/7 basis. The company has likewise conducted medical and dental outreach programs in far-flung barrios in Siocon and adjacent towns that had never been reached by government and NGO medical services. (Rene Patangan)