22 September 2019, Quezon City. A waste and pollution watchdog group urged national and local authorities to intensify the government’s Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) program as polio, one of the most feared childhood diseases, makes unwelcomed comeback in the country.
The EcoWaste Coalition pointed to the need to achieve ZOD after the Department of Health (DOH) recently confirmed two polio cases involving a three-year old girl from Lanao del Sur and a five-year old boy from Laguna.
Described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease,” polio or poliomyelitis is caused by the poliovirus, which is transmitted through the human feces, especially in places with poor hygiene and sanitation.
“The unwelcomed return of polio in the Philippines, after almost two decades of being declared polio-free by WHO, should lead to an intensified implementation of the ZOD program and other preventive measures, including ecological solid waste management, toward improved environmental sanitation in our communities,” said Jovito Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Attaining the ZOD target will benefit sectors such as young children, pregnant women and those with impaired immune systems who are most vulnerable to polio and other infectious diseases,” he pointed out.
“We can prevent polio from spreading through effective immunization and by ensuring people’s access to such basic necessities like water, sanitation and hygiene,” he added.
To achieve the ZOD target, every household in a barangay should have access to a sanitary toilet and water supply, the DOH said.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WHO, some seven million Filipinos still practice open defecation, particularly in rural areas.
The DOH’s “Guidebook for a ZOD Program” defines open defecation as “the practice of passing feces outside a latrine or toilet, or in a natural environment (open field, body of water, etc.) and leaving the fecal matter exposed.”
To stop open defecation, the EcoWaste Coalition also urged Congress to ensure the allocation of sufficient funds for the construction of sanitary toilet facilities and the provision of hygiene and sanitation education, noting that only P2 million is allotted for building toilets in the proposed DOH budget of P160.15 billion for 2020.