Having a basic, functional toilet in every Filipino household is more important than having a cell phone, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Monday.
But “[w]e have more Filipinos with mobile phones than those with functional toilets,” Duque said during the celebration of World Toilet Day at the Department of Health (DOH), where he stressed the importance of a clean, basic toilet in every home.
The health secretary cited data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, which showed that 70 percent of families have improved toilets that they do not share with other households.
The DOH, through its National Sustainable Sanitation Plan, aims to achieve a zero open-defecation status in all barangays by 2022.
This is to deal with the fact that 7 million Filipinos still practice open defecation, especially in rural areas.
Duque noted that giving away toilets alone would not solve the problem.
TIME AND RESOURCES
“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.
Duque likened it to investing in and caring for a smartphone bought with one’s own money.
“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 stressed.
The DOH launched a campaign in select rural areas in 2014 dubbed “Goodbye, Dumi! Hello, Healthy!” to encourage households to build their own toilet facilities at home.
The campaign was first implemented in Masbate province and will be expanded to the rest of the Philippines by 2018, employing different communication platforms for adults and children.
In communities where the project was first implemented, toilet coverage increased from 58 percent to 85 percent in a six-month period, according to the DOH.
Country representative Lotta Sylwander of the United Nations Children’s Fund pointed out that children were more likely to suffer from frequent bouts of diarrhea, worm infections and undernourishment due to open defecation.
“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,” Sylwander said. – INQUIRER.NET
text JULIE M.AURELIO