Press Release/ November 27, 2017

Basic toilet facilities should be a necessity for every Filipino household, more than having mobile phones.

Health Secretary Dr. Francisco T. Duque III today stressed the importance of having a basic toilet facility to achieve universal health care, during the World Toilet Day celebration at the Department of Health (DOH) central office in Manila.

“We have more Filipinos with mobile phones than those with functional toilets,” Duque said, citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Based on 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 (7) 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.

Thus, 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 or CLTS.  CLTS is under the umbrella concept of total sanitation that includes a range of behaviours 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.

The DOH, through the National Sustainable Sanitation Plan (NSSP), has set an ambitious target that by 2022, all barangays that are practicing open defecation shall be declared Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) status.  “But giving away toilets alone will not solve our problem,” said Duque.

“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.”

Moving beyond the eradication of open defecation towards the safe management of sanitation for all requires a continuous shift in the types of approaches.  That is, 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 behaviour 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 behaviour, infrastructure and services of individuals, collectives and corporations in order to protect the safety of all concerned.

“It’s the same when we buy our own cellphones. 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.”
DOH is working with other government agencies, local government units, non-government organizations and the private sector to promote its ZOD Program. In selected rural communities, DOH has launched a communication campaign, called “Goodbye, Dumi! Hello, Healthy!” to convince household heads to build their own sanitary toilets.

First implemented in the Province of Masbate in 2014, the campaign will now 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.

In communities where the campaign was first implemented, toilet coverage increased from 58 to 85 percent, on the average, in a six-month period, according to UNICEF.
To achieve the target of zero open defecation status Philippines, we need a renewed effort and commitment from all sectors – local officials and authorities, local health workers, parents and community members.  To save lives and reduce illness, it is vital for us to combine our expertise in health, communication and community knowledge to raise awareness and promote hygienic and safe practices.
“Sanitation is not a pleasant theme for dinner conversation but it should be talked about. The campaign, ‘Goodbye, Dumi! Hello, Healthy!,’ gives us this opportunity to make people talk about shit and sanitation, without malice,” said Sylwander.
The campaign was cited by the Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP) as one of the country’s top communication programs at the 52nd Anvil Awards early this year.