By Chito Chavez
Quezon City based environmental group EcoWaste Coalition has reiterated its call to concerned government authorities to strictly enforce the Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) program with polio, one of the most feared childhood diseases, making its return to the country after decades of absence.
The group stressed the urgency to achieve ZOD after the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that polio cases had surfaced in the country.
Described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease” polio or poliomyelitis is caused by the polio virus, 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 added.
Benosa said polio can be prevented from spreading through effective immunization and by ensuring people’s access to such basic necessities like water, toilets and sanitation.
To achieve the ZOD target, the DOH said every household in a barangay should have access to a sanitary toilet and water supply.
In its report, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WHO revealed that 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. (Chito A. Chavez)