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| Last Updated:15/04/2014

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90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation

Anne A. Jambora,, 15 April 2014


We’ve all been there, when we had to rush to the public toilet with a full bladder, only to be repulsed by the restroom’s unsanitary condition. Every day, a hapless Filipino encounters reeking toilets with dirty tiles, overflowing trash bins and soiled seats.


For a race that prides itself in being clean, with most Filipinos taking a shower at least twice a day, many also apparently take for granted the toilet. According to a study conducted by Unilever Philippines, 90 percent of households do not practice proper toilet hygiene and sanitation.


When probed under a black light, toilets surfaces show that millions of microorganisms—bacteria, germs, molds and other contaminants—flourish in this environment. This poses a higher risk for diarrhea, the world’s fourth leading cause of death in children under 5 years old, and also worms, pneumonia and other water-borne diseases.


“The rate of diarrhea is going down because we have better medicines. But the rate of people contracting diarrhea is going up because sanitation is not improving,” said Chito Macapagal, VP for corporate affairs, Unilever Philippines, during the recent Bulong Pulungan at Sofitel Philippine Plaza.


Furthermore, 26 million Filipinos do not have access to sanitary toilets, and 7.4 million openly defecate—sometimes near a water source, which helps diseases spread even more quickly. It takes only two to three people openly defecating to contaminate 30 to 50 sitios, said Unicef water sanitation and hygiene specialist Dr. Mike Gnilo.


“Sometimes you have to shock people to move them toward collective action. Flies will go from waste to food and back. [Facilitators for our program Philippine Community Approaches to Total Sanitation] tell participants, ‘I don’t want to eat your sh-t,’” he said.


Gnilo added that in some communities, a dozen families sometimes share a single toilet. This alone makes maintaining cleanliness very challenging.