Around 26 million people still have no access to sanitary toilets in the Philippines, data from two United Nations agencies show.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization said 7.4 million of these Filipinos still poop behind bushes, fields, plastic bags, ditches or along highway tracks.
“In the Philippines, there’s still about 30 percent of the population that don’t have access to sanitary toilets. That is approximately 26 million people,” UNICEF water, sanitation and hygiene expert Mike Gnilo said during the observance of World Toilet Day in Manila on Monday.
Households without proper toilets are mostly found in Masbate, Northern Samar, and provinces in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, Gnilo said, citing studies.
He then urged the government to improve access to sanitary toilet in the country, which the doctor claimed is crucial to the attainment of UN's Millennium Development Goals.
Gnilo said lack of sanitation leaves people, especially children, particularly vulnerable to diseases.
Children practicing open defecation are exposed to risks of diarrhea mortality as well as cholera, dysentery, worms, trachoma, pneumonia, and malnutrition, Gnilo said.
UNICEF data show that 5,000 children in the world die everyday due to diseases because of open defecation practices and lack of sanitary toilets.
Other than exposure to diseases, Gnilo lamented the Philippines' sanitation problem as a deprivation of “basic human right of access to a sanitary toilet” are more vulnerable to verbal, physical and sexual abuse.
“For the poorest 20 percent, the proportion of people who practice open defecation has increased 12 percent in the last 10 years,” Gnilo said.
“For these people, sanitation is about dignity, equity, and safety,” he underscored.
This, as he lamented how progress on access to sanitation in the Philippines slowed in the past five years.
He explained the lack of sanitation in toilet facilities and the practice of open defecation worsens in the rural areas compared to 2 percent increase in the cities.
The use of innovative or makeshift toilet facilities aside from typical toilet bowls may also contribute to improved sanitation in the Philippines, Gnilo said.
“A sanitary toilet is a facility that should provide separation between human contacts and the feces so it does not contaminate the water supply,” he explained.
“It does not have to be the white toilet bowl as long as it does not physically touch and does not smell,” he added.