INDIGENOUS people's groups said an outbreak of rash, fever, colds and diarrhea, all symptoms of measles disease, have been spreading in the remote Ata-Manobo villages of Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

Pasaka Regional Confederation of Indigenous Peoples in Southern Mindanao and Katribu said community leaders in Talaingod have already spread the information to remote villages in Talaingod.

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According to the estimate of some medical health groups under the RX for Peace, which conducted initial surveys in the area, the disease has already affected seven communities or 230 households.

Last week, a measles patient has reportedly died on his way to seek medical help, said Katribu regional coordinator Kerlan Fanagel.

"If unmitigated, the disease will spread to eight more communities and will endanger additional 347 households," Fanagel said in vernacular.

"The disease has already spread throughout the remote villages of Talaingod. There are already reports of fatalities especially among the children," said Datu Duloman Dawsay, a tribal leader of the local Manobo group Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon.

"We fear for the worst especially since Ata -Manobo communities do not have access even to the most basic health services, especially to medicines that will prevent the deaths of the victims. The victims may die in the middle of the road going to the nearest hospital just to get medical help)," Dawsay added in vernacular.

Pasaka spokesperson Diolito Diarog said by traditional practice, the Ata-Manobos inflicted with a disease should avoid passing communities that are not affected.

"We fear that the indigenous way of quarantine has failed to contain the outbreak in Talaingod. Decisive and urgent measures to prevent the escalation of the measles incidence should be done at once to prevent more fatalities. The effects of measles put the Ata-Manobos in a more serious danger considering the existing problem of malnutrition and hunger in the area," Diarog said.

Pasaka and Katribu attributed the dismal plight of the people of Talaingod to the government’s abject neglect of providing free and accessible health programs for the rural poor.

Katribu and Pasaka appealed to the concerned local government units and other concerned groups and individuals to join the crisis intervention efforts being launched by medical groups and other concerned NGOs for the people of Talaingod.(Jade C. Zaldivar with PR)