The Department of Health is preparing to launch a massive campaign with the ambitious goal of finally eradicating malaria in Palawan, currently the lone remaining province in the country where the mosquito-borne illness still exists significantly.

DOH Mimaropa, in collaboration with other rural health units, will consolidate and enact a medium-term plan to eradicate malaria in Palawan by 2026, said Oscar Macam Jr., the vector-borne disease program manager for DOH-Mimaropa, during last Thursday’s World Malaria Day observance.

Once finalized in May, this plan will be presented to the provincial government and other sectors.

Macam explained that Palawan has continued to log a high number of malaria cases, following spikes in municipalities such as Narra and Taytay last year, the latter of which declared a state of calamity over the outbreak.

Macam noted that the municipalities with the highest cases of malaria this year were Rizal, Brooke’s Point, Bataraza, and Quezon.

“Sa ngayon ang kaso natin ng malaria ay umaabot sa 1 000. Kung titingnan natin yung [current] period ng 2024, halos pareho ng kaso last year. Pero noong 2023, umabot ng 6300 yung cases ng malaria dito sa Palawan,” Macam said, adding that these numbers were the baseline considered for the medium-term malaria eradication plan headed by the regional DOH this year.

Macam explained that the standards of the World Health Organization (WHO) for declaring a place malaria-free require that there be no malaria cases reported within the locality for five consecutive years.

Palawan is the only remaining area in the Philippines with recent cases of malaria, and these cases are concentrated at high levels. Macam explained that this situation is attributed to various factors, including the specific nature of the disease and the province’s environment.

“Yung IP natin dito ay napaka-nomadic, di po sila permanent sa isang location. Pati yung vectors dito, present lahat yung five naandiyan. Nandito lahat, anopheles flavirostis, [anopheles] balabacensis, mangyanus, maculatus. (…) Sa ibang meron din pero di sila kumpleto told dito. Most probably kaya mas madaming cases dito sa Palawan, kasi all-star cast sila dito,” Macam remarked.

“[Sa IPs,] ang hirap lamang po ay hindi sila tumatagal sa isang lugar kasi palipat-lipat sila. Kagaya ngayon, yung iba nating mga IP ay nasa streets. Siguro dahil sa sobrang init kaya nandun sila, wala sila doon sa dating bahay nila na pinupuntahan ng health workers natin,” he said.

Macam noted that while some sectors thought the medium-term plan for malaria eradication was too ambitious within the specific timeframe, they fully expected them to collaborate.

Despite this, the regional and provincial DOH already initiated programs since January, such as training rural health workers and providing honorariums, as well as allocating spray gun insecticides and larvicides in municipalities.

As part of their health advisory, Macam warned against improper stockpiling of water containers during this extremely hot season, as these containers can easily become breeding sites for mosquitoes.