Philippines: Measles Outbreak Flash update No. 1
Measles cases are rising in the Philippines with the Department of Health (DOH) declaring outbreaks in five regions in the country, including in Metro Manila. The DOH reported over 4,300 confirmed measles cases from 1 January to 13 February 2019. Severe complications from measles have also claimed the lives of 70 people, 1 in 3 of which were children younger than nine months old. According to the DOH surveillance data, more than 80 per cent of 2.6 million unvaccinated children are in the seven regions which have declared outbreaks - Regions III, IVA, IVB, VI, VII, VIII, and the National Capital Region. In San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, three wards have been opened to accommodate the influx of patients from Metro Manila and neighbouring regions.
Government response and humanitarian coordination
On 11 February, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) requested its regional disaster offices to convene their respective response clusters to monitor possible outbreaks in their respective areas. Government agencies continue to respond assisting with distributing vaccine, deploying medical personnel to promote awareness and provide immunization. The Department of Education is gathering data on measles cases and conducting evaluations in schools.
The DOH met with international health partners on 15 February to provide updates on the response to the outbreak. In attendance were OCHA, WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, IOM, Save the Children, Asian Development Bank, and a representative from the British Embassy. DOH already activated its Incident Command System to implement the nationwide vaccination campaign which will target 95% of the estimated 2.6 million unvaccinated children under 5 years. Children 0 to 59 months old will also be provided with polio vaccine as the Philippines is on the watch list for possible disease outbreak. DOH reported that it has in-country stockpiles of five million doses of measles vaccine. With the declaration of an outbreak, the agency was able to access its emergency response funds which allows it to procure, through UNICEF, one million vaccines expected to arrive in March. DOH has further requested UNICEF to facilitate the purchase of another five million vaccines which it expects to be delivered in four to eight weeks.
WHO and UNICEF are working closely with the Department of Health to contain the outbreak. Both agencies are providing technical and some funding support to the national programme in the planning, implementation and monitoring of response activities. UNICEF is responding to a request of DOH to provide tents which will be used for the vaccination programme and will also mobilize its NGO network for support.