Filipinos should have more access to toilets than cell phones — DOH » Manila Bulletin News

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By Charina Clarisse Echaluce

Filipinos should have more access to toilets than cell phones, the Department of Health (DOH) reminded.

Department of Health (Manila Bulletin)

“We have more Filipinos with mobile phones than those with functional toilets,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III disclosed, citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

To note, based on the official demographic data, 84 percent of households own a mobile phone while only 70 percent have improved toilet facilities that are not shared with other households.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), approximately seven-million Filipinos still practice open defecation, mostly in rural areas.

“When our neighbors defecate in the open, in fields and waterways, our children will more likely experience frequent bouts of diarrhea, have worm infections, and grow up stunted and undernourished,” warned UNICEF country representative Lotta Sylwander.

Because of this, the DOH continues to promote the Zero Open Defecation Program (ZODP) advocacy and health education campaign. The ZODP utilizes the approaches and strategies of Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). The CLTS is under the umbrella concept of total sanitation that includes a range of behaviors such as stopping open defecation practices; ensuring that everyone uses a sanitary toilet; frequent and proper hand washing; hygienic handling food and water; safe disposal of animal and domestic waste; creation and maintenance of a clean and safe environment.

Road to ‘Zero Open Defecation’

The DOH, through the National Sustainable Sanitation Plan (NSSP), targets that by 2022, all barangays practicing open defecation shall be declared Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) status.

Duque, however, noted that “giving away toilets alone will not solve our problem.”

“Households and communities need to be prepared. They should also be responsible. When our governors and mayors give toilets for free, household heads should also invest their time and resources, however limited they may be, in building their own toilet facilities,” he stressed.

The DOH chief explained that moving beyond the eradication of open defecation towards the safe management of sanitation for all requires a continuous shift in the types of approaches. The shift from eradicating open defecation, to shared or basic sanitation, to safely managed systems for all will need to be accompanied by a shift in approaches from collective behavior change, towards strengthening supply chains and improving public services.

Across all of these steps there is a need for the public regulation of the compliance of behavior, infrastructure and services of individuals, collectives and corporations in order to protect the safety of all concerned, he added.

“It’s the same when we buy our own cellphone. We take care of it because the money we used to buy it came from our own pockets. That should also be the case for our own toilets,” the health official noted.

Communication campaign

In selected rural communities, the DOH has launched a communication campaign, called “Goodbye, Dumi! Hello, Healthy!” to convince household heads to build their own sanitary toilets.

First implemented in Masbate in 2014, the campaign will be rolled out in all regions in 2018. The campaign is composed of different communication platforms, including a community play, health classes, and engaging information materials for children and adults.

According to the UNICEF, in communities where the campaign was first implemented, toilet coverage increased from 58 to 85 percent, on the average, within a six-month period.

To note, the campaign was cited by the Public Relations Society of the Philippines as one of the country’s top communication programs at the 52nd Anvil Awards early this year.

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