THE whole of Eastern and Western Visayas and selected provinces of Central Visayas have been identified as recipients of the US$2.2-million grant from the Bill and Melina (B&M) Gates Foundation for rabies prevention and control program.

The Visayas group of islands has been chosen as recipients by the “Consultative of Rabies Experts” and staff of the B&M Gates Foundation for being a region that is “highly endemic for human and canine rabies and the highest number of animal bite patients.”

The program that will run for five years is expected to serve about 17 million of the country’s population and an estimated nine million dogs.

Data provided by the Iloilo City Health Office, one of the recipients of the program, showed that the Visayas Islands has about 25 percent of the total number of animal rabies cases, 28 percent of the total human rabies and 27 percent of the animal bites in the country.

The number of animal bites in Western Visayas in 2009 was recorded at 19,707 and 11 for human rabies.

The project specifically will “demonstrate the feasibility and promote an evidence-based strategy for the prevention of neglected diseases” through “control and elimination of diseases in its animal reservoir.”

The initiative was viewed to boost the government’s goal of declaring the Philippines rabies-free by 2020. (PNA)