World Rabies Day 2016 Celebration in the Philippines: Moving towards Rabies-free by 2020
September is always an action-packed month for the GARC team in the Philippines, who—together with our partners—mark this month for the annual nationwide celebration of World Rabies Day (WRD) on September 28. The Philippines is among the seven Southeast Asian countries where canine rabies is still highly endemic, and so the World Rabies Day celebration presents an opportunity to educate and involve Filipinos in the shared goal to ultimately eliminate rabies in the country by the year 2020.
From the national government down to the villages, the number of people who participate in the celebration keeps growing each year. For 2016, more than 80 event organizers participated in the WRD celebration with over 90 events registered on the GARC website, a substantial increase from 66 events in 2014 and 76 in 2015. These events include routine free mass dog vaccinations, spay and neuter services, and community/school lectures, but some partners organized pet-and-owner fun runs, school-based competitions, dog shows, radio and television interviews, and rabies summits.
At the national level, the Declaration of Rabies-free Zones has always been a highlight of the WRD celebration. Since 2008, 38 areas have already been declared rabies-free through this joint endeavor of the Department of Health and Department of Agriculture. Thirty-eight local government units were also recognized as the Best Rabies Program Implementers including Ilocos Norte, which is one of the CARE project sites in the Philippines. National partner agencies such as the Department of Education (DepEd) and Department of Interior and Local Government released national memorandums encouraging schools and local governments nationwide to conduct their own WRD activities.
GARC also teamed up with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), DepEd, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines Veterinary Dispensary (AFPVD) to boost the promotion of WRD through multi-media platforms. PIA facilitated television interviews and a text or SMS blast that was sent to approximately 8,800 subscribers across the country, while DepEd posted key messages on rabies on their official Facebook page. A first this year was a WRD video advertised on the electronic billboard along a major freeway around Manila in coordination with the AFPVD.
The team also supported local government partners by providing banner tarpaulins to those who registered their events. Just recently, we presented WRD updates during the Animal Health and Welfare Forum attended by around a hundred local government veterinarians and professors from veterinary schools. A number of people approached us at the event and thanked us for the banners and IEC materials we sent. Hearing their stories firsthand about how we contributed to their WRD celebration truly was the highlight of our day.
Our project partners in Sorsogon and Ilocos Norte were equally busy with WRD events. More than 800 students from pre-school to the high school level along with around 200 teachers and parents participated in a series of information and education activities held in both areas. These include the Star Holiday Encampment in coordination with the Girl Scouts of the Philippines in Sorsogon and the Children’s Festival, One Health Quiz Bee, and the Folk/Modern Media Competition in Ilocos Norte. Similar to the national government award, the province of Ilocos Norte also recognized the individual local governments and groups who excelled in implementing the rabies prevention and control program in their respective localities.
We would like to extend a huge thank you to our local partners for these events, for their commitment, and for their active involvement. With the increased awareness and knowledge of rabies, we expect that more people will get involved in the WRD activities in the coming years.
Contributed by Dane Medina, communications officer for GARC’s Philippines office