Davao tribal leaders urge health officials to visit areas

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 7 Oct) – Tribal leaders here are asking health agencies to regularize their visits to tribal communities, citing costs of travel and distance to the nearest health facility.

In an interview Tuesday, Datu Juanito Mandahay said getting to the nearest health center to and from their sitio in Marilog costs an average of P200 per head.

He said travelers would have to find motorcycles or four-wheeled vehicles that would take them to the main highway near the Marilog District Hospital or the nearest health center.

Mandahay said common complaints are colds, fevers, and flu, as well as water-borne diseases and stomach aches.

“We are willing to be treated,” Mandahay said, “but it costs us too much.”

The tribal elder, speaking to reporters at the launch of the construction for the Marilog Council of Matigsalog in Davao City (Macomadaci) tribal community center, leads 24 sitios in Marilog.

Marilog Proper barangay chief Purificacion Suyko said the City Health Office and the Department of Health were in the area to visit during the massive immunization program for measles rubela and oral polio vaccine, which ends today in the agencies’ mop up operations.

Mary Divene Hilario, DOH head for public education, said in a text message that the MROPV program in Marilog has already reached at 90-percent coverage.

According to Mandahay, the communities would prefer house visits instead of a central location where residents will converge because of the time it would take to get there.

The tribal chief said medicine and other supplies were hard to come by in the communities.

Suyko said there are 18,000 people living in Marilog Proper, with Ata Manobo and Matigsalog being part of the indigenous peoples in the area.

According to the City’s Investment Plan for Health document (CIPH), the Marilog District Hospital, located at Sitio Kibalang, Barangay Marilog, is among the health facilities that need immediate upgrades in terms of facilities and infrastructure.

It was built in 2005 with an aim of serving the indigenous communities with a 10-bed capacity.

The area also lacked water and electricity, as of 2010, according to the document.