Over 60 LGUs join JICA, DOH, and DA-BAI cooperation to end rabies in PH by 2030


Rabies is a preventable disease that is spread primarily by bites and contact with infected animals' saliva. Due to its high death rate, it remains a public health problem in the Philippines. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 59,000 people die each year from rabies, 97% of which are transmitted by dogs.

A partnership between the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Department of Health (DOH), and Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Animal Industry (DA-BAI) encouraged more than 60 local government units (LGUs) in 11 regions to push for zero rabies in the Philippines by 2030.

A wrap-up seminar for the Japan and Philippines One Health Rabies (JAPOHR) project was held on July 6 at the Crimson Hotel in Alabang, Muntinlupa City attended by several stakeholders that explored ways to move the project forward more sustainably.

JAPOHR project collaborated with Japanese universities, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), San Lazaro Hospital (SLH), and Bulacan LGU as pilot site. The project, which began in 2018 and ends this year, launched innovations in animal rabies surveillance and rapid response, including rapid rabies testing and internet-based data sharing system. Many knowledges, know-how and experiences of Japan, where rabies was eradicated in 1950s, were introduced and transferred by the project.

“The frontliners in the rabies campaign are the LGUs who are expected to implement these innovations proactively in rabies awareness and prevention. Rabies is preventable, and there’s a need to utilize stakeholder collaboration to make sure that more lives are saved,” said JICA Chief Representative SAKAMOTO Takema.

The rapid rabies test kit developed under JAPOHR was made available to participating LGUs and has remarkably detected over 200 rabies cases from October 2021 to June 2023.

In 2018 and 2019, JAPOHR likewise trained doctors and health personnel from the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Office III (DA-RFO3) and RITM in Japan. Two RITM and DA-BAI doctors also received their Master of Public Health (MPH) in Nagasaki University and Doctorate Program (PhD) in Oita University.

A rabies awareness campaign was also launched in social media, and hands-on training on rabies rapid diagnosis and data sharing system was held at the LGU level.

“These strategies helped ensure that stakeholders are aware of these innovations in rabies diagnosis and prevention, measures they can implement at the local level, and how they can play a part to end rabies in the Philippines,” added SAKAMOTO.

There are at least 200 deaths from rabies in the Philippines every year, and with over one million Filipinos seeking emergency treatment from animal bites. The cooperation made sure that the JAPOHR method based on Japanese expertise will strengthen Philippine rabies surveillance and reduce rabies deaths significantly.

“After the implementation of this project, we had rabies remote laboratories in operation in various local government units. The project inputs, both from our Japanese counterparts and our Filipino project managers and implementers, have really gone a long way. We will not be able to accomplish all of this without the all-out support of JAPOHR. We fervently hope that our collaboration will continue in the future despite its finalization this August,” said RITM Officer-in-Charge-Director Dr. Ana Liza Hombrado-Duran.

Furthermore, Dr. Lea Thompson, Regional Representation for Asia & the Pacific at the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), stated, “Freedom from rabies is a public good that can be accomplished with currently available tools. We know what to do; we have the tools, we have the know-how, and the expertise, but the question is how we will implement it. Rabies elimination is not a segregated approach but a collective one.”

The JAPOHR project was implemented under the JICA Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS) promoting research collaboration between Japan and partner countries, like the Philippines. Among those Japanese institutions that participated in the project were Oita University, Kitasato University, National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID), Tohoku University, and Nagasaki University.


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