Malaria continues to be a worldwide concern, with the World Health Organization reporting 241 million global cases in 2020. The disease is caused by a parasite carried by infected mosquitos and is more prevalent in rural areas.
Luckily, there are available treatments and preventive measures that can be done. Now, it is just a matter of getting these to the communities who need it.
In 1999, PSFI launched the Kilusan Ligtas Malaria Program. Now known as Movement Against Malaria (MAM), the program aims to organize and mobilize community-based activities to combat the spread of malaria in identified areas. MAM makes treatment accessible to the public, provides means to improve case detection, and initiates activities to help educate on preventing the spread of the disease.
Together with local efforts, the cooperation of various communities, and support from the Global Fund, MAM has made significant progress over the years. As a matter of fact, in 2020, 60 provinces have been declared malaria-free. The program also takes pride in having trained more than 10,000 health providers—heroes who helped make MAM gather significant momentum and create a lasting impact. Among them are Lilibeth and Laurensa.
Lilibeth Mansuri, 36, is a healthcare assistant in Brooke’s Point, MIMAROPA who joined MAM as a volunteer. She would accompany the PSFI team on location whenever they would conduct seminars, borderline spraying, and rapid diagnostic testing.
Her earliest encounter with the disease was when she was much younger. Lilibeth shared that when she was a child, her family would repeatedly contract malaria. It came to a point where every member of her family got admitted in the hospital. This is where she noticed how important access to healthcare was and how information on treatment was necessary.
“Dati, walang instruction or direction sa pag-inom ng gamot. Kung na-malaria ka, bahala ka kung paano mo papagalingin yung sarili mo.”
(“Before, there were no instructions or directions for taking the medicine. If you get malaria, getting better becomes your responsibility.”)
She had prior experience in providing medical aid. First as a barangay health worker, then as a healthcare assistant and translator for an NGO. She also received a scholarship from DOH which helped her finish midwifery at Mary Chiles College.
“Noong nasa NGO ako, isa sa trabaho ko is to identify ‘yung mga problema sa mga barangay. Brooke’s Point is number 1 dati sa kaso ng malaria.”
(“When I was in an NGO, one of my roles was to identify problems in barangays. Brooke’s Point was number 1 before in Malaria cases.”)
With personal experience in malaria, she felt the need to help other people dealing with the disease and do her part in combating it in vulnerable communities. As a volunteer, she would help disseminate announcements and information, as well as act as translator between the team and the locals.
Lilibeth commended MAM’s goals and activities, and how it changed people’s lives when it comes to contracting the disease. She notes that since MAM educates people on the prevention as well as symptoms, people are less hesitant to approach personnel for diagnosis and treatment.
“Hindi na mabigat sa mga tao ang magkaroon ng malaria dahill alam nila na may tutulong sa kanila.”
(“People are not burdened by contracting malaria anymore because they know that someone can help them.”)
Laurensa Joldanero, 56, is a midwife from San Jose, Occidental Mindoro who participates in MAM’s activities. She is the program’s team leader in San Jose and as such takes charge when it comes to borderline spraying, along with executing other components of the program.
While her family has never directly experienced the disease, Malaria is pretty common in Laurensa’s community. There was one instance where she helped bring a sick coworker to get tested for Malaria, and sure enough, the person tested positive.
The lack of access to information on Malaria has led to the widespread infection in her community. Even though some might want to get help, back then, they did not have access to resources for testing and treatment.
“Bago na implement ‘yung program, marami talagang kaso ng malaria sa area na ito. ‘Yung mga tao, wala pa silang knowledge. Akala lang nila dati na regular na lagnat.”
(“Before the program was implemented, there really were many Malaria cases here. People did not have knowledge, so they thought they just had regular fever.”)
Upon implementation, Laurensa saw how MAM has helped her community, especially the borderline spraying and the testing. Now, it is easy to test people for Malaria and even immediately provide medicine and care.
While some locals were hesitant at first, MAM’s consistent efforts eventually bore fruit.
“Nung nakita nila na malaking tulong ‘yung mga seminars na ‘to at yung mga ginagawa namin tulad ng borderline spraying at paglagay ng mosquito net, mas lalo sila nagtiwala sa amin.”
(“When they saw how helpful these seminars were and how our activities like borderline spraying and attaching mosquito nets, they trusted us more.”)
Movement Against Malaria continues to work towards its goal of eradicating the disease in the country. While MAM has helped reach some key milestones in Malaria control, the progress this program has made would not have been possible without the help of those who have worked tirelessly and continued to do so to educate and treat those affected by this disease.
Since MAM, previously Kilusan Ligtas Maria started in 1999, the program has made a significant contribution to the decrease in cases in the Philippines. Now, 23 years later, PSFI is proud to have spearheaded a program that has helped change and save lives and will continue its commitment to reach a Malaria free Philippines by 2030.