With polio back, EcoWaste wants more DOH funds to build toilets

MANILA, Philippines –The Department of Health (DOH) needs additional funds to build more toilets amid the ongoing polio outbreak in the country, the EcoWaste Coalition told Congress. 

The pro-environment group made the appeal on Sunday, September 22, two days after the DOH confirmed the second case of polio in the Philippines.

The EcoWaste Coalition pointed out that of the P159.2 billion budget proposed by the DOH in 2020, only P2 million is allotted to address open defecation through the building of sanitary toilets. (READ: Hontiveros says DOH's P10-billion budget cut an 'attack on public health’

“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,” EcoWaste Coalition said in a statement. 

The DOH has declared a polio outbreak in the country, where two cases – a 3-year-old girl from Lanao del Sur and a 5-year-old boy from Laguna – have been confirmed. 

Poliomyelitis or polio is a highly contagious disease caused by the poliovirus invading the nervous system. The disease can be transmitted through feces infected with poliovirus, which can enter the body through the mouth and spreads through contact with an infected person’s feces. In rare cases, the virus is transmitted through sneezing or coughing. (READ: EXPLAINER: What is polio?)

EcoWaste Coalition’s Jovito Benosa said the DOH must strengthen its Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) program now that polio has returned to the country after 19 years.

“The unwelcomed return of polio in the Philippines, after almost two decades of being declared polio-free by WHO (World Health Organization), 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 Benosa.

“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.

The DOH launched its polio vaccination campaign in August, with target areas including the National Capital Region, Davao, and Lanao del Sur in October, and in Central Luzon and Calabarzon in November. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.