Can province sustain zero defecation status?

Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. together with IPHO head Dr. Maria Socorro Colmenares-Quiñon, and Chief of WASH UNICEF-Philippines Carlos Vasquez unveil the province’s Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) Seal during the World Toilet Day and Provincial Zero Open Defecation Celebration on Friday, Nov 18, 2022 at Casa Real De Iloilo.

By John Noel E. Herrera

Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. said the behavioral adjustments of the public and improvements in facilities are the key pieces for the province to sustain its “Zero Open Defecation” (ZOD) status.

“In order for sustainability sa aton ZOD status, we must know the right way to use it. We must learn how to clean it and always, so those behavioral adjustments even as of now, we continue to struggle there and it will be a continuing campaign not only here in Iloilo but in the entire country (to practice it) so that we can sustain this campaign,” Defensor said.

“Number two, the facilities. Again, because of lack of resources, that is challenging… even here in the province, we provide toilets but that is not enough, but we will continue acquiring more resources so that we can help up to the last area. The cleanliness, order and functionality is very important,” he added.

Iloilo Provincial Health Office (IPHO) head Dr. Maria Socorro Colmenares-Quiñon also said that communication continues with the municipalities, making sure that basic sanitation in all households is practiced.

Defensor also emphasized the equal importance of having good water systems in the barangays to address the challenges in contamination of water sources in some areas that affect the sanitation program of the towns.

“You cannot have a good sanitation program without giving equal importance to the water system, and the development of water system in the barangays should come also with the development of toilet facilities… and that’s how we approach it,” Defensor added.

On Friday, Nov 18, 2022, the provincial government unveiled the province’s ZOD Seal after its successful campaign of making sure that all its 1,721 barangays have been certified as ZOD villages, during the World Toilet Day and Provincial Zero Open Defecation Celebration at Casa Real De Iloilo.

The provincial government awarded all 42 towns and one component city in Iloilo with plaques of recognition and P20,000 cash incentives “for their efforts and commitment to achieving the ZOD status.”

WASH UNICEF-Philippines chief Carlos Vasquez said UNICEF will continue to support the province for showing its commitment to delivering better healthcare services and sanitation programs to the public.

“UNICEF not only provides support but it is also learning from the process here in Iloilo and bring that learning to other communities, at the same time, we take the learnings from other provinces and bring it here so that we can support the government and counterparts to make sure that we reach the G2 status,” Vasquez added.

Quiñon said the provincial government, through the IPHO, is preparing to reach Grade 2 (G2) status with the help of the local leaders who have already shown their commitment to prioritizing sanitation programs in the province.

G2 or Basic Sanitation Status is the status of the community “wherein households, schools, child development centers, and public institutional facilities have their own sanitary toilets that are functional; and communities properly manage animal excreta and properly dispose of their solid waste, in addition to maintaining the norm that open defecation is unacceptable.”

Iloilo is the first province in Western Visayas and third in the country to achieve ZOD status since it launched the campaign at barangay and municipal levels in 2015.

The campaign also aimed to ensure that there will be no defecation in open surroundings to prevent the contamination of water sources which could result in diseases like hepatitis, diarrhea, typhoid, amoebiasis, and cholera, among others.