The media recently reported that the Commission on Audit found 84% of hand washing facilities in Misamis Oriental’s 365 schools non-functional. These facilities, according to COA, were funded under the Basic Educational Facilities Fund in 2012 and cost P45,000-50,000 each, or a total of P17,140,887.25.
The province of Misamis Oriental like Cagayan de Oro City and the province of Bukidnon are pioneers in making the Essential Health Care Program (EHCP) – school-based hand washing with soap and tooth brushing with fluoride toothpaste – a daily drill in public schools. Proper implementation will improve the health and wellbeing of the entire school population. The Parent-Teacher Associations, civic organizations and other private groups and individuals have supported this approach and have sponsored hundreds of hand washing facilities. LGUs, congressmen and even the teachers themselves have been providing soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste. It was only in 2009 that the national government took cognizance of EHCP, in particular its role in preventing H1N1 and other infectious diseases, and ordered every school to have a group hand washing facility constructed. A design was provided and this is the P45,000-50,000 facility.
Parent-Teacher Associations, communities, and LGUs sponsored hand washing facilities for schools in Misamis Oriental (for hand washing and toothbrushing by group) as early as 2006, mainstreaming began in 2009. More recently, a 3-seater toilet with a 5-faucet hand washing facility (used after use of toilet) has been provided to selected schools under DepEd’s Water and Sanitation Program. This facility costs P300,000 or more.
Last May 2013, the EHCP stakeholders in Misamis Oriental conducted an inventory of water sources and hand washing facilities. The inventory showed that only 59% of schools have water supply. While 86% of all schools have hand washing facilities only 63% have functional ones. To address these deficiencies, a new approach was introduced. Reorientation of schools and PTAs was conducted province-wide starting September 2013. Pupils are now empowered to conduct the daily drill with little or no supervision from the teachers who are overburdened with regular teaching responsibilities. The PTAs have become more aware of the challenges of ensuring consistent supply of water though not necessarily running water.
The rampant theft of faucets and pipes is one of the major reasons that hand washing facilities become non-functional. Not all schools can afford iron enclosures. Other facilities have been battered by disasters including Typhoon Sendong (December 2011).
Despite these challenges, school-based daily hand washing with soap and toothbrushing with fluoride toothpaste is a cost-effective and simple approach to reducing diarrhea, intestinal worms, tooth decay, and a number of other diseases afflicting millions of Filipino children. The program emanated from the Philippines and is now being replicated in other countries. It is something for us to be proud of and something worth supporting.
Philippine South District