7.4-M Pinoys still poo in bushes, plastic bags

Posted at 11/19/2012 8:59 PM | Updated as of 11/20/2012 3:43 PM

MANILA, Philippines - At least 26 million Filipinos still don’t have access to a sanitary toilet, with a large number still finding creative ways to defecate, an expert said.

In his speech during the World Toilet Day spearheaded by Unilever and Domex, Dr. Mike Gnilo of Unicef Philippines said that despite the advocacies of the United Nations for equal access to sanitation, 1.1 billion of the world’s population still practice open defecation.

“[Of this], 7.4 million of them in the Philippines – they go to the toilet behind bushes, in fields, plastic bags, ditches or along railway tracks; making them vulnerable to verbal, physical and sexual abuse.”

He said sanitation is all about dignity, equity and safety.

“Equity is an issue, the poorest 20% are up to 20 times more likely to practice open defecation and for the poorest 20%, the proportion of people who practice open defecation has increased by 12% in the last ten years.”

He said progress on this issue has slowed down in the past five years. At such a pace, more people still won’t have access to sanitation facilities by 2015.

“The Millennium Development Goal target to reduce by half the proportion of the population without access to sanitation is at serious risk,” he added.

Gnilo urged the public and the government to make an economic investment out of sanitation. He said that for every dollar invested, the average return is nine times.

“Sanitation contributes to economic development through improving school attendance, decreasing healthcare costs, and improving human productivity due to improved health,” he said.

He explained that the lack of sanitation leaves people, especially the children, vulnerable to diseases such as the deadly diarrhea, cholera, and worms.

He said, “improved sanitation could save the lives of one million children per year who would otherwise succumb to diarrheal diseases.”

He also noted that water resources are affected by poor sanitation. In developing countries, around 90% of sewage is untreated but still discharged into bodies of water.

He said a “coordinated response” is therefore needed to address the problem.

“It’s not only a household issue, but a community issue. We need to make it a national and global issue.”