ISABELA CITY, Basilan, June 2 (PIA) - The Ministry of Health-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (MOH-BARMM) released a memorandum last April 13, 2020, reiterating the Department of Health's Circular No. 2020-0167 for the continuous provision of essential health services across the country in the time of COVID-19.
The MOH-BARMM memorandum instructed public health facilities in the region to remain open to provide non-COVID-19 health services.
The MOH-BARMM, with support from the U.S. government, has been leading regional and local efforts to ease the impact of COVID-19 and protect its constituents.
In a press release, BARMM-Health announced that as of May 31, 2020, BARMM has registered 10 probable cases, 301 suspects, 27 positive COVID-19 cases, and four confirmed deaths.
To augment the health facilities' operating expenses amid the COVID-19 crisis, the MOH-BARMM allocated a total of PhP 10 million to provincial and city health offices as well as some hospitals under the ministry. Additionally, to support frontline health workers implementation of the DOH and BARMM memorandum, all rural health units will receive a monthly allocation of PhP 20,000 for their operating expenses.
Meanwhile, the Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) will also receive financial assistance from the ministry. MOH-BARMM already distributed a total of PhP 2,599,000 to 2,599 BHWs, the first batch to receive the financial support.
"The regional government is committed to respond to the challenges brought by COVID-19 to our health workers and health systems in BARMM," said Dr. Saffrulah Dipatuan, BARMM Health Minister.
The policy and financial support from the BARMM government facilitates the continuous delivery of family planning (FP), maternal and child health services, and adolescent and youth reproductive health in the region. Services are delivered in keeping with the community quarantine and physical distancing measures.
"We are happy to note that immunization, pre-and post-natal checkups, FP counseling, distribution of FP commodities, and the provision of modern FP birth-spacing methods and many other health services continue across the Bangsamoro region," said Dipatuan.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through its BARMM-Health project, partners with MOH-BARMM as well as provincial, city, and municipal health offices to fortify the quality of health services in the region.
Since June 2019, USAID's BARMM-Health project has trained over 600 health workers and religious leaders to improve access to quality health services among underserved communities. The USAID-trained health workers have devised ways to coordinate among their respective health facilities and implement innovative solutions to serve their clients, such as house-to-house visits, 'FP Services on Wheels', and bandilyo-- a Cebuano word that means 'to make known' or 'announce loudly.'
Bryn Sakagawa, USAID/Philippines Office of Health Director, commends the DOH and MOH-BARMM for their commitment to unhampered provision of health services. "Inspite of COVID-19, these timely government actions are helping mothers and their families to access voluntary family planning, and essential maternal and child health services."
Sakagawa also lauded the continuity of care and treatment of tuberculosis patients who are among those at-risk for COVID-19. "The U.S. government is a proud partner of DOH and BARMM in addressing the needs of vulnerable population groups," said Sakagawa.
The U.S. government has committed PhP 785 million ($15.5 million) to assist the Philippines in its COVID-19 response. (RVC/PIA9-Basilan with reports from USAID's BARMM Health Project/University Research Co., LLC)