One of the biggest challenges that health officials are faced with is the deplorable lack of toilet facilities in many Filipino households. In fact, a household will have more cellular phones than sanitation facilities, according to the Department of Health.

In observance of World Toilet Day 2017, the Health department renewed its call to improve toilet sanitation practices in the country.

Secretary of Health Francisco Duque III admitted the lack of such facilities in homes - which is a key health factor - remains a challenge.

"We have more Filipinos with mobile phones than those with functional toilets," he rued.

He cited that about 80 percent of Filipino households own cellular phones, while only 70 percent have fully-functioning toilet facilities, a study by the Philippine Statistics Authority indicated.

Having no access to proper facilities could result in various health conditions such as diarrhoea, worm infestations, stunted growth and undernourishment, said UNICEF country representative to the Philippines, Lotta Sylwander.

World Toilet Day is celebrated on the 19th of November to raise awareness on the importance of toilet use and sanitation. This year's theme focused on the sanitation chain.

For its part, the DOH set a national target: by 2022, all barangays (villages) will have a 'Zero Open Defecation' status, which is in line with the National Sustainable Sanitation Plan.

For this goal to succeed, it will require cooperation between local governments and residents of the community, Secretary Duque said.

"Household and communities need to be prepared. They should also be responsible," he pointed out. When governors and mayors give toilets for free, household heads must invest time and resources - however limited - to build their own toilet facilities, the Health chief added. 

Providing toilets alone is not the solution to the problem, he underscored.

Among the advocacy programmes of the DOH is its communication campaign dubbed 'Goodby, Dumi! Hello, healthy!' It employs community play, health classes, and engaging information materials for both children and adults.

This was started in Masbate three years ago and is now ready to be rolled out in different regions. Initial results of the campaign saw toilet coverage increase from 58 percent to 85 percent.

Duque exhorted the public that in the same way people take care of the cellphones they purchase, toilets must be given the same importance due to sanitation and cleanliness, in this case having adequate and functioning toilet facilities in every household. MIMS

Read more:

Chickenpox outbreak hits provincial jail