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Safely managed sanitation

            The Social Weather Stations’ fourth quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey conducted in December 2019 but published this week has found 90 percent of households in the Philippines as having access to a toilet, 6 percent have access to toilets shared with other households, and 4 percent had no access to a toilet altogether.

            The survey numbers may seem encouraging but the health department figures say around 50.3 million Filipinos equaling about 10 million families do not have access to “safely managed sanitation services.” Of this number, some 24 million use limited or unimproved toilets or none at all.

            “This past week was celebrated World Toilet Day. This focus is important because it calls for action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and achieve Sustainable Goal 6: Water and Sanitation for all by 2030,” SWS said in its special report.

            Floods, drought and rising sea levels cause by climate change are threatening sanitation systems – from toilets to septic tanks to water treatment plants. Floodwater can contaminate wells used for drinking water or flooding might damage toilets and spread human waste into communities and food crops, causing deadly and chronic diseases.

            Sustainable sanitation, alongside clean water and handwashing facilities, help protect and maintain health security and stop the spread of deadly infectious diseases such as COVID-19, cholera and typhoid.

            A sustainable sanitation system begins with a toilet that effectively captures human waste in a safe, accessible and dignified setting. The waste then gets stored in a tank, which can be emptied later by a collection service, or transported away by pipework. In an ideal world, the next stage would be treatment and safe disposal that allows us to save water, reduce and capture greenhouse gas emissions, and provide agriculture with a reliable source of water and nutrients.

            Filipinos have a long way to go before sustainable sanitation systems can become the norm but it is a goal that we have to aspire for, no matter how unsexy it may be. Safely managed sanitation will allow us not only to safely capture human waste and restore human dignity, it can also prevent diseases, save water, generate energy, and even enrich our land. It’s a shame that our leaders do not seem to consider it an urgent goal that can benefit millions of Filipinos and secure a better future for them.*

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