Building Immunity, Building Futures: How Relief International is leading the fight against preventable diseases in the Philippines


Building Immunity, Building Futures: How Relief International is leading the fight against preventable diseases in the Philippines

In the picturesque yet remote areas of the Philippines, access to healthcare is not just a basic service but a lifeline.

At the heart of our mission lies a commitment to increasing immunization coverage, reducing morbidity and mortality, particularly among children, and preventing the preventable. 

Vaccination stands as one of the most cost-effective health interventions known to modern medicine, with global immunization efforts having saved at least 154 million lives over the past 50 years (WHO, 2024). Yet, the Philippines ranks among the top five countries in the world with zero dose children (UNICEF, 2022). 

Since 1976, Relief International has spearheaded the National Immunization Program, a pioneering initiative aiming to provide immunity against 14 preventable diseases, including Hepatitis B, Polio, and Meningitis. Today, we extend life-saving support across 17 regions nationwide, covering 86 high-priority areas. 

"The value of our work lies in our whole-community approach, engaging with national leaders down to the grassroots, collaborating closely with local leaders who understand their communities' needs best," shares Kristine Dean, MEAL Officer at Relief International Philippines.

This crucial work does not come without its challenges: delivering immunization services involves not only logistical barriers but also gaps in generating interest and participation. “While vaccine stocks are often available for administration to eligible individuals, there are instances where there is insufficient demand for them in many areas,” shares Kristine. 

This can stem from various factors, including lack of awareness about the importance of immunization, misconceptions or fears about vaccine safety and limited access to healthcare services. 

However, driven by our mission, our team navigates these hurdles daily, addressing these barriers and fostering trust through education, community engagement, and targeted outreach efforts to boost vaccine uptake. 

As part of these efforts, we connect directly with Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDAs). When communities in remote areas struggle to access immunizations, we bring it to their doorstep, alongside healthcare awareness and education. 


Relief International staff visiting communities in their homes

"Our staff go above and beyond what is expected of them. A job is just a task if we do not add a human touch to it. Immunization efforts are nothing without the united efforts of everyone," shares Norma Constantino, Program Manager at Relief International Philippines.

“The immunization coverage rate is more than just a statistic; it reflects the real-life stories and meaningful impact behind our efforts. It’s about ensuring every individual has the right to actively participate in and benefit from our healthcare systems,” shares Norma. 

From July 2023 until April 2024, our teams enabled the full immunization of over 100,000 children nationwide with the 5-1 baby vaccinations, protecting them against five diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib). This incredible impact was made in partnership with The Philippines Department of Health and UNICEF. 

But it doesn’t end there. As we continue our efforts in the Philippines, the ongoing support of our donors and partners is crucial. Each vaccine administered represents a step toward a healthier, more resilient community. “We want to align with the objectives of the immunization agenda, not only within the country but globally,” shares Kristine. 


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