Department of Health: 100% toilet coverage possible before 2022

28 November 2017

MANILA, 28 November 2017—Basic toilet facilities should be at every Filipino household, even before 2022.

Health Secretary Dr. Francisco Duque III stressed the importance of having a basic toilet facility to achieve universal health, during the World Toilet Day celebration at the Department of Health (DOH) central office in Manila on 27 November 2017.

“Our target is 100 percent coverage by 2022. Let us not wait till 2022. Nothing is stopping us to achieve this earlier than planned,” Duque said, citing his agency’s National Sustainable Sanitation Plan.

According to the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), approximately six percent of Filipinos, mostly in rural areas, still do not have sanitary toilets, as of 2015.

“When people living in our communities 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 Philippines country representative Lotta Sylwander.

Eliminating open defecation by 2022 is one of the goals of the Philippine Health Agenda. “But giving away toilets alone will not solve our problem,” said Duque.

To address this, the Department of Health (DOH) is implementing the Zero Open Defecation Program (ZODP). The ZODP utilizes the approaches and strategies of Community-Led Total Sanitation (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, washes hands properly, handles food and water in a hygienic manner; and disposing animal and domestic waste safely to create a clean and safe environment.

“Achieving zero open defecation is not easy. Households and communities need to be aware and prepared. We cannot just give toilets for free. All our efforts will be for naught if families are not willing to invest their time and resources in building and maintaining their own toilet facilities,” said Duque.

According to DOH, eradicating open defecation and setting up the safe management of sanitation requires a shift in the use of approaches. This shift will include collective behavior change, strong supply chains and improved public services. Across these steps is a need for public regulation of behavior compliance, improvement of infrastructure and services of individuals, collectives and corporations.

DOH is working with other government agencies, local government units, non-government organizations and the private sector to promote its Zero Open Defecation (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 average in a six-month period in 2016, according to UNICEF.

“We have seen that toilet distribution programs by themselves are not effective in achieving change. By investing in the Zero Open Defecation Program and the Goodbye, Dumi! Hello, Healthy! communication campaign, the Department of Health can mobilize and empower communities to change their behaviors and to find solutions to their sanitation problems,” said Sylwander.

The campaign was cited by the Public Relations Society of the Philippines as one of the country’s top communication programs at the 52nd Anvil Awards early this year.

Media contacts

Zafrin Chowdhury
Chief of Communication
UNICEF Philippines
Tel: +63 917 867 8366
Marge Francia
Communication Officer
UNICEF Philippines
Tel: +63 917 858 9447


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