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 Monday (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 (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), approximately eight 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 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 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, wash hands properly, handles food and water in a hygienic manner; and disposes 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.

Members of the De La Salle Dance Street perform a song from the musical play, “Goodbye, Dumi! Hello, Healthy!”. Written by the Guro sa Sining ng Bayan, Inc, the play has helped many communities reached the status of Zero Open Defecation (ZOD).

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 (PRSP) as one of the country’s top communication programs at the 52nd Anvil Awards early this year.

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About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit www.unicef.org/philippines

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For further information please contact:

DOH Media Relations Unit, Tel: +632 922 787 8409

Zafrin Chowdhury, Chief of Communication, UNICEF Philippines, Tel: +: +632 901 01 77, Mobile: +63 917 867 8366, zchowdhury@unicef.org

Marge Francia, Communication Officer, UNICEF Philippines Tel: +632 901 01 73, Mobile: +63 917 858 9447, mfrancia@unicef.org