Open defecation perpetuates a vicious cycle of disease and poverty, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The countries where open defection is most widespread have the highest number of deaths of children aged under five years as well as the highest levels of malnutrition, poverty, and huge disparities of wealth.
In the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) recently conducted the celebration of World Toilet Day as one of the 17-part community engagement called “Biyaheng Kalusugan” where the DOH aims to provide practical knowledge on how to practice the “7 Healthy Habits para sa Healthy Pilipinas.”
The caravan activities conducted November 18, 2023 at GMALL Cebu City aimed to boost Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) campaign.
IT consisted of a comic book billboard discussing the importance of having ZOD communities, a game booth imparting knowledge on proper hygiene and sanitation, and a photowall where all participants can seal their commitment to contribute towards a safe and clean environment.
“Biyaheng Kalusugan: World Toilet Day” was attended by Director Alethea De Guzman of the DOH Epidemiology Bureau, Director Ana Liza Hombrado-Duran of the DOH Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Acting Mayor of Cebu City Raymond Alvin Garcia, and Cebu City Health Officer Dr. Daisy Villa.
“Healthy communities where there is access to safe water and sanitation facilities ensure that we are protected from illnesses, such as diarrhea, that may lead to hospitalization and death,” De Guzman said.
Lack of access
Yet, she added, there is still a significant number of Filipino households which lack access to basic toilet facilities.
“This World Toilet Day, we wanted to impart behaviors we should practice that will protect us and our families—wash our hands, properly prepare food, drink from reliable water sources. We also call on our local government units and health partners to invest towards the establishment and improvement of sanitation infrastructures for a safe and clean environment,” she said.
The Biyaheng Kalusugan initiative and celebration of World Toilet Day is in line with the Department’s Eight-Point Action Agenda particularly to Agenda #5: Pag-iwas sa sakit and Agenda #6: Ginhawa ng isip at damdamin.
THESE aim to increase comprehensive health literacy among Filipinos and to create healthy communities wherein the physical, psychological, social, political, and economic factors are promotive and protective of health and where healthcare is available, relevant, and accessible to the public.
“Poor sanitation not only poses health risks but also hinders the progress we made towards realizing Universal Health Care,” Health Secretary Teodoro J. Herbosa said.
“Let us seize this opportunity to create lasting change and ensure that every Filipino has access to safe and dignified sanitation facilities all geared towards creating healthier settings and choices for everyone,” he added.
The DOH also encourages the continued support and investment of its partners in the public and private sector to enable sustainable uptake of healthy behaviors for all Filipinos.