GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 11 Oct) – Health personnel in South Cotabato province are pushing for the declaration before yearend of at least 20 barangays as “zero open defecation” or ZOD communities.
Dr. Rogelio Aturdido Jr., head of the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO), said the selected barangays have passed the initial assessment conducted by their office and a team from the Department of Health (DOH)-Region 12 for the first level of the ZOD program.
He said these barangays are located in the municipalities of Polomolok, Norala, Tupi, Tampakan and Sto. Niño.
“They were recommended by the municipal health offices as the areas that will most likely pass the assessment and recognized as ZOD communities,” he said during the “Kapihan sa Kapitolyo” hosted by the Provincial Information Office on Thursday.
Aturdido said the 20 barangays comprise the initial batch that they endorsed for the ZOD assessment in the entire province.
South Cotabato, which is composed of 10 municipalities and one component city, has a total of 199 barangays.
Erisaldy Quines, IPHO sanitary engineer, said the assessment was the first of the four levels adopted by the DOH for the ZOD program, which is supported by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
He said a barangay may qualify for the first level ZOD status if there are no more open spaces still used for defecation; all households have access to functional toilets and are using them; all toilets, either shared or individual, have steady water supply and have available soap; and used diapers and other related materials are disposed properly.
The action plan on local sanitation in the barangay should be in place and there should be an established team that will regularly monitor local sanitation and hygiene practices, he said.
Aturdido said the IPHO is currently providing technical assistance to local health offices and the barangays to ensure compliance to the ZOD standards.
He said they are hoping that more barangays will be assessed for the first level ZOD status next year.
“Our main concern right now is there are still communities that don’t have stable water supplies and access to potable water,” he said.
Based on their latest assessment, he said 90 percent of the province’s barangays already have potable water sources while households have access to water sealed toilets.
The remaining 10 percent are situated in remote areas and identified as priorities for the distribution of water sealed toilets and construction of potable water systems.
Aturdido acknowledged that the province needs to double its efforts on the campaign to eventually make local communities safer from various diseases, including polio.
He said the improper disposal of fecal wastes, especially in waterways, could trigger the spread of polio in the communities.
“This is big challenge for us and our barangays but rest assured that we are doing everything to effectively address this concern,” he added. (MindaNews)