MARAWI CITY (PIA) – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through its TB Platforms Project, partnered with the City Government of Marawi, Ministry of the Interior and Local Government (MILG), and Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) for the conduct of its first “USAPANG DIBDIBAN for Local Officials and Community Healthcare Workers: An Online Forum on TB and COVID-19 Prevention.”
Dubbed as USAPANG DIBDIBAN, USAID’s TB Platforms Field Operations Area Manager Dr. Zhamir Umag shared how the project team closely collaborates with the City Health Office and Amai Pakpak Medical Center in TB case finding, contact tracing, and providing TB treatment amid COVID-19. Recently, Dr. Umag has been a mainstay resource person in DXSO Radyo Pilipinas where he provides the latest updates on the USAID’s TB Platforms remote mentoring and monitoring of community healthcare workers.
Dr. Christian Villacorte, MDRTB and Patient Centered-Care Specialist of the project explained the latest World Health Organization’s guidelines on infection prevention and control. During the webinar, he answered inquiries on TB and COVID-19 and expounded on some possible local actions that the City Health Office and Barangay Health Centers can adapt to be able to implement infection prevention and control for both TB and COVID-19 frontliners.
Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra welcomed all online participants and expressed full support to USAID especially to the continuous provision of TB services and treatment in health centers and hospitals amidst the COVID-19 crisis. With the challenges faced by the local government unit, one of their concerns was how to protect their frontliners – government officials distributing relief goods to communities and healthcare workers serving in TB centers which are now converted as COVID-19 centers.
Mayor Gandamra cited that under his leadership, he requested donations of personal protective equipment (PPEs) from government agencies and the private sectors to ensure that they address infection prevention and control measures.
“COVID-19 has affected all of us here in Marawi. Marawi residents have gone so many battles but this one is different because COVID-19 deaths around the world explain that we need to face this virus and respond locally before it hits us. This is why I welcome the support of USAID in strengthening our TB response like educating us on how to implement strict infection prevention and control in our barangays and health facilities,” the mayor said adding that the webinar is timely and commendable.
MILG Minister Atty. Naguib Sinarimbo also graced the webinar. He shared that MILG acknowledges Marawi City’s initiatives for both TB and COVID-19 response.
He commended Marawi local officials and community health workers’ dedication especially in serving beyond work hours reaching out to Marawi residents in relief operations as well as monitoring TB patients on treatment. The community quarantine hindered TB patients and their families to visit the health facilities. TB nurse coordinators and barangay health workers volunteered to distribute the one-month advance supply of TB medicines.
“Supported by the City Health Office, the LGU should spearhead local initiatives to provide TB treatment amid COVID-19, highlighting the need to practice infection prevention and control which include the necessary PPEs, social distancing, and proper hygiene at all times,” he cited.
He also stated that LGUs are tasked to ensure that the community receives all the necessary support, especially on health concerns. “If TB patients are of higher risk to get infected by COVID-19, much more that local governments should respond immediately,” he noted.
Meanwhile, BTA Member of the Parliament Atty. Maisara Dandamun-Latiph shared that her office is grateful to be part of the webinar. She emphasized that it is important to underscore the health and safety of Marawi residents.
“We are extremely grateful for the hard work, effort, and the heroic tasks that our health workers undertake daily to save lives in our community. Your work in preventing, controlling, and treating many members of the community of tuberculosis, down from the barangays in this time of COVID-19 along with your compassion is really inspiring,” she said.
“Now that we need to face the new normal, instead of resisting change, we must embrace and learn to creatively live with the pandemic. This means that our communities must likewise embrace the new normal to better protect our family and environment,” she added.
During her solidarity message, she highlighted the generous support of USAID to Marawi City in the fight against TB and expressed sincere gratefulness in the ongoing remote mentoring initiatives of USAID’s TB Platforms.
“This webinar is helpful for the LGU and community health workers as they respond to TB and COVID-19 challenges. In my capacity, my office will find ways to support information dissemination of infection prevention and control for both TB and COVID-19 and will include sustainable TB treatment and services in my legislative agenda,” the official said.
USAID’s TB Platforms, implemented by University Research Co. (URC) LLC., has been collaborating with the Marawi City Government since 2018 as part of USAID’s support to the Department of Health’s National Tuberculosis Program. The project provided capacity-building workshops for more than 600 community health workers and equipped them in the conduct of TB screening and contract tracing for all barangays in the city under the COME ALIVE (Communicating and Mentoring Effectively using Ask, Listen, Inform, Verify, and Engage) strategy, a social and behavior change approach launched in 2019.
USAID’s TB Platforms in Marawi City is led by Field Operations Area Manager Dr. Umag. The project is directly working with the City Health Office along with the local TB Council which is about to pass its first TB Ordinance in the next months. Last week, USAID’s TB Platforms launched its TB Patrol, another social behavior change campaign using a multicab vehicle which will ply in major roads of all barangays sharing basic information on TB and COVID-19 updates.
Diwata de Castro-Paredes, USAID’s TB Platforms Social and Behavior Change Communications Specialist is working with the Philippine Information Agency, DXSO 99.7 FM Radyo Pilipinas, and other local media networks for public outreach related to TB and COVID-19 in Lanao del Sur. She is collaborating with local radio stations, online publications, TV networks, cinema establishments as well as celebrity ambassadors for the #TBFreePh campaign which aims to find and treat Filipinos of tuberculosis and reduce the stigma of the disease.
USAID’s TB Platforms is also collaborating with public and private institutions for the implementation of TB response amid COVID-19 in workplace settings as some cities transition from modified community quarantine to general community quarantine starting June 1.
USAID’s TB Platforms will continue to provide technical assistance packages for LGUs and health facilities as part of USAID Philippines’ support to the Department of Health National Tuberculosis Program. This includes sharing of digital tools or mobile health application dubbed as ConnecTB which helps community healthcare workers monitor treatment adherence of TB patients and monitor adverse drug reactions to be able to provide proper care and treatment, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. (USAID)