24 September 2021

Manila/Cotabato City, 23 September 2021— As part of the 2019–2023 programme of cooperation between the Government of the Philippines and UNICEF, the UK Government in partnership with UNICEF Philippines continues to support COVID-19 prevention efforts in the Bangsamoro region through a project on “Improving COVID-19 Vaccine Acceptance and Overcoming COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy and Refusal in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM)” which aims to build stronger capacities of BARMM Government institutions in risk communication.

This grant builds on the success of UNICEF, the UK Government and BARMM’s earlier partnership to address primary and secondary impacts of COVID-19. Under that project, around 5 million people were reached in BARMM with COVID-19 messages; 20 municipalities restarted essential services for children; 34,000 children were vaccinated with BCG, pentavalent 1,2, and 3 and measles-containing vaccine 1&2; 400,000 children 9-59 months old were vaccinated during the measles-rubella supplemental immunization activity, and around 1,200 returnees to BaSulTa were provided with emergency relief supplies including household kits and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) items.

This renewed commitment from the UK Government will provide the BARMM’s Bangsamoro Information Office, the Ministry of Health and the three provincial information offices in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces with technical assistance in communication and behaviour change, wide dissemination of correct messages, training for local health teams on more effective behaviour change communication, promoting COVID-19 vaccinations, and mobilisation of local government authorities for their full support.

“The fight against COVID-19 is far from over especially with the emergence of new variants. Through the renewed partnership with UNICEF and the UK government, we are confident that we will be able to address misinformation concerns. We have to protect our people, particularly our children,” says Ahod B. Ebrahim, Chief Minister of the BARMM Government.

Messaging on COVID-19 prevention measures, myths and misinformation, including importance of COVID-19 vaccinations, will be delivered through online channels and interpersonal means through rural health unit staff targeting four million people. Muslim Religious Leaders will be tapped to develop COVID-19 sermons for dissemination through Friday prayers and over 400 adolescent and youth networks to ensure their full engagement in COVID-19 prevention efforts.

British Ambassador Designate Laure Beaufils, said: “Ensuring people across the world have access to safe and reliable Covid-19 vaccines is a top priority of the UK Government. Our renewed partnership with UNICEF Philippines will build on the success of our partnership last year to help vulnerable communities in the BARMM make informed choices about their health and support the interim government in promoting Covid-19 vaccines and countering disinformation about them.”

In the three island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (BaSulTa), considering their remoteness and diversity, mass information dissemination will be reinforced with interpersonal community engagement through barangay health workers in all 800 villages in BaSulTa’s 42 municipalities.

“This contribution from the UK Government means a world of difference to children and their families who live in the most disadvantaged and hardest-to-reach areas. Apart from enhancing the skill of health and communication staff in BARMM, it also harnesses the power of young people to become change agents within their communities,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov says.