Five-fold increase in municipal targets needed to end open defecation by 2025

Joint Press Release | 19 November 2021

Manila, Philippines (19 November 2021) – In celebration of World Toilet Day 2021, the Department of Health (DOH) and UNICEF today commended 55 municipalities and cities that, even in the time of pandemic, have been certified Zero Open Defecation (ZOD).

Despite this progress, however, a five-fold increase in municipal annual targets is needed to end open defecation by 2025.

“Investing in Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) is highly recommended in preventing both pandemics and local outbreaks. It also involves investing in people who are vital to the proper functioning of the sanitation systems, and we need many more of them now to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Department of Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III.

Data from the Field Health Services Information System of DOH showed that there are over 2,700 sanitation inspectors throughout the country, however, they are unevenly distributed. Around 68% of cities in the country also have fewer sanitation inspectors than what is required for a given population. These challenges are needed to be addressed to help accelerate the country’s sanitation coverage.

The Philippines is one of only two countries in Southeast Asia whose current progress is too slow to eliminate open defecation and achieve universal access to basic sanitation by 2030  according to the UNICEF and World Health Organization (WHO) Joint Monitoring Programme for WASH. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) stated there are around 7 million Filipinos who are still openly defecating or using unimproved toilets as of 2020. Households practicing open defecation are mostly found in rural areas, while use of unimproved toilets or households that are using shared sanitation facilities are found higher in urban areas.

“A toilet is a valuable intervention that should be present in every Filipino home. A house is not complete without this facility. The absence of toilets exposes family members and the community to the risk of infection from fecal pollution of food and water. Unsanitary conditions have been associated with the occurrence of diarrhea, cholera, typhoid fever, and other infectious diseases. Improving sanitation must be everyone’s concern,” said Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO Representative to the Philippines.

Poor sanitation does not only lead to diarrheal diseases or intestinal worm infections among children, but also exacerbates malnutrition and perpetuates a vicious cycle of repeated infection and chronic malnutrition. Data from the National Nutrition Survey in 2015 shows that Filipino children living in households with sub-optimal water, sanitation infrastructure and environments are 3.5 times more likely to be stunted.

“The links between poor sanitation and child undernutrition are well-established. Let us not allow a generation of children to miss developing their full potential. We call on local governments to make the necessary investment and seek out partnerships to further accelerate our efforts in ensuring a clean and healthy environment for every child,” said Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov, UNICEF Representative.

This year, the DOH, UNICEF, and WHO join the global community in celebrating World Toilet Day with the theme “Sanitasyon para sa lahat: Kayang-kaya, basta tayo’y sama-sama!” to encourage local governments and key stakeholders to ensure that each household will attain sustainable sanitation.