The Department of Health (DOH) Officer-In-Charge (OIC) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire met with international and local health partners in the 3rd Multi-Sector Governance Council (MSGC) Meeting to rally their support in bolstering COVID-19 vaccination in BARMM and other identified areas. The OIC likewise laid down her 4 point-agenda under the new Health Sector Strategy 2023-2028 to strengthen collaboration and galvanize partner support to priority initiatives.

In her speech, Health OIC Singh-Vergeire emphasized that the short-term priority is to increase COVID-19 vaccination coverage in BARMM, as it has the lowest coverage (55.24%) for primary series among all regions. Considering this challenge, the OIC appealed for partners to provide funding assistance for operational gaps and human resource deployment, as well to support monitoring and implementation, especially in the Island Provinces of Sulu and Basilan.

“We do not just want to focus on delivering the national targets of PinasLakas. Universal Health Care is anchored on equity – where quality care is provided to the most vulnerable. We cannot progress as a country, until every Juan everywhere is uplifted. To do so, we recognize the critical role of our key partners in supporting our initiatives. We need to maximize our partners’ strengths and support to develop innovative and culturally-appropriate strategies that encourage people in BARMM and in other priority areas to get vaccinated,” the Health OIC emphasized.

Similarly, the Undersecretary identified key initiatives under the new health sector strategy that the DOH shall initiate in the first year of its implementation. Specifically, she identified international and local health regulations, capacitating regional offices, improving human resources for health strategies, and streamlining health financing mechanisms as priority areas where health partners may provide financial and technical support.

“If we are able to jointly deliver on our PinasLakas targets for BARMM and priority areas, as well as collaborate to successfully implement these identified initiatives in the first year, this will serve as our proof of concept that Universal Health Care is within reach, and that we will move mountains to make it happen for every Filipino,” Health OIC Singh-Vergeire said.

The MSGC is a group of key health partners who assist the DOH in pursuing its reform agenda. Key members who were in attendance during the 3rd MSG meeting included leaders from foreign government support agencies such as the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Korea International Cooperation Agency, Manila Economic and Cultural Office, United States Agency for International Development, US Centers for Disease Control, and Johns Hopkins Program for International Education in Gynecology and Obstetrics. Also in attendance were top executives from international development organizations such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, World Health Organization, United Nations Population Fund, and United Nations Children’s Fund among many others. Local health partners who were also present in the meeting include Oxfam Pilipinas, Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc., WomanHealth Philippines, and Zuellig Family Foundation among others.