The Department of Health (DoH) on Monday lamented that there are more households in the Philippines that own cell phones than basic toilet facilities.
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd said 84 percent of households own a mobile phone but only 70 percent have toilet facilities that are not shared with other households.
Also, according to the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), 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,” said UNICEF country representative Lotta Sylwander.
The DoH continues to promote its Zero Open Defecation Program advocacy and health education campaign to teach people, especially those in rural areas, basic sanitation practices such as stopping open defecation, making sure everyone has a sanitary toilet, proper hand washing, hygienic food preparation, safe disposal of animal and domestic waste, creation and maintenance of a clean and safe environment.
Duque said giving away toilets will not solve the problem of open defecation.
“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 said.
“It’s the same when we buy our own cell phones. 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,” he added.
Working with other government agencies, local government units, non-government organizations and the private sector to promote its ZOD Program the DoH in selected rural communities has launched a communication campaign, called “Goodbye, Dumi! Hello, Healthy!” to convince household heads to build their own sanitary toilets.
The program was first implemented in the province of Masbate in 2014 and would be rolled out to other regions in 2018.