The Department of Health (DOH) together with World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) of World Bank spearheads the 1st National Sanitation Learning Exchange (SANLEX 2016). It aims to address the present state of sanitation in the Philippines, specifically in rural areas.
Sanitation problems and challenges continue to pervade the country. Some of these problems are open defecation, lack of appropriate sanitation facilities, and improper hygiene behaviors, which all have direct or indirect impact on health. Among those impacts is the contamination of water sources leading to incidence of water-borne diseases (diarrhea, cholera and typhoid fever), intestinal worm infection, and malnutrition.
According to the 2015 Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) of the WHO and UNICEF, the Philippines has met its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on safe water. Currently, 92% of the population has access to improved water sources even as the country made good progress towards meeting the sanitation target at 83%. Despite this positive progress, only 74% of the population have their own toilet facilities, 26% are still using unsanitary or do not have their own toilet facilities of which 7% still practice open defecation.
“We believe that this advocacy can be strengthened through an aggressive campaign by the national government, local government units and with the support of our developmental partners and private sectors, to create demand for sanitation, strengthen the supply and market for sanitation products and services, and capacitate institutions for improved governance and accountability in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) service delivery.” Health Secretary Janette P. Loreto-Garin explained.
In 2010, the DOH adapted the National Sustainable Sanitation Plan (NSSP) and has focused in reaching 9.5 million (40%) people living in unsanitary conditions. The latest data from the 2012 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) confirm that this number has been reduced by approximately 3 million.
After working with provincial and municipal governments to develop and implement their rural sanitation programs over a period of three years, our sanitation partners have seen promising results like the adoption of local ordinances, establishment of Technical Working Groups, crafting of WASH plans with clear implementation strategies and budgets, organizing municipal sanitation campaigns, pioneering of innovative approaches to include sanitation markets, local enterprises, and cooperatives.
This year, DOH announces the first eleven municipalities that achieved Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) status under its Zero Open Defecation Program (ZODP). These municipalities are: (1) Malungon, Sarangani; (2) Buenavista, Quezon Province; (3) President Roxas, North Cotabato; (4) Arakan, North Cotabato; (5) Agdangan, Quezon Province; (6) Monreal, Masbate; (7) Mercedes, Eastern Samar; (8) Mayorga, Leyte; (9) La Paz, Leyte; (10) Tunga, Leyte; and (11) Pastrana, Leyte. The ZODP aims to motivate areas practicing open defecation to adopt sanitation practices through community wide initiatives with the help of partners and the local government units.
The health chief added that the recent integration of WASH in the social protection programs of the Department of Social, Welfare and Development (DSWD) has increased the capacity of LGUs in reaching ZOD status more effectively. These collaborative efforts have scaled up from an advocacy function of rural health units to a broader poverty-alleviation agenda of the national government.
“We always say that prevention is still better than cure. Prevention will always start within ourselves, in the individual household, and the community that we live in. With the continuous effort from our partners, the attainment of sanitation coverage for all will be a success not only in rural areas but nationwide.” Garin concluded.
– DOH Philippines