16. Nov. 2022
All over the world, people in informal settlements live a precarious life with poor access to water and sanitation. In the Philippines, the NGO Water & Life works with poor communities in Cebu to improve public health and minimize environmental pollution from human waste.

Today, 3.6 billion people are still living with poor quality toilets that ruin their health and pollute their environment. Inadequate sanitation systems spread human waste into rivers, lakes and soil, contaminating the water resources under our feet. The link between sanitation and groundwater cannot be overlooked. Safely managed sanitation protects groundwater from human waste pollution. Everyone must have access to a toilet connected to a sanitation system that effectively removes and treats human waste.

In the Philippines, for example, especially urban poor areas lack sanitation infrastructure, and open defecation is still prevalent: More than 4 million people are forced to practice open defecation. In addition to the challenges of securing an adequate water supply, surface water and groundwater is contaminated in some areas due to open defecation and inappropriate management of black water.

Community Engagement Grant speeds sanitation along

The Tangke II area in Cebu looks like of most of the other urban poor areas in the country. In 2021, 350 new water connections for approximately 1,750 people in Cebu and Mandaue were built and firefighting pumps were aquired with funding from  the Foundation. However, due to Typhoon Odette which occurred at the end of 2021, many installations were seriously damaged.

“In 2022, we took the first step of our intervention model, on raising community awareness about sanitation, and the sanitation study. The objective is that we first provide water access to the communities and that the communities are informed of the risks and challenges related to Solid Waste and Sanitation and know how to better manage it in order to minimize the impact and ease further management by the authority in charge,” explains Marine Dupond, Partnerships & Communication Officer, Water and Life Philippines

The 2022-grant has so far provided 500 new families with sustainable water access. 600 beneficiaries have been capacitated in improving sanitary condition (still ongoing) and 9,000 beneficiaries will receive WASH awareness training (still ongoing).

Pilot study in sanitation. (accomplished)

"According to Water & Life's study, 42% of the population had no sanitation facilities and used public latrines due to lack of financial resources and lack of space. 8% of respondents reported engaging in open defecation at night, while children routinely practiced this activity at any time of the day, on the seaside or at sea. 3% of the sample have septic pit latrines. 17% declare that they throw their gray water around their houses, and on the ground. 3.3% use this water to water the plants."

Most private latrines in the community are inaccessible to emptying and have never been emptied since construction. Not up to standard, the latrine pits do not have a concrete floor, allowing contaminated water to seep into the ground. Given the geographical location of the community, it is possible to assume that the contaminants progress rapidly toward the sea water. A drainage system previously put in place by the Barangay (local authority), on the main roads of the community of Tangke II conveys the wastewater from the houses directly to the sea without prior treatment. Improvised drainage pipes or concrete gutters set up by the community, undersized and rarely functional, evacuate all wastewater directly to the sea.

“Thanks to this study quantifying the needs of the community, a sanitation pilot project /multiyear project is planned to start next year,” explains Marine Dupond.

Creative celebrations to raise awareness

Water & Life Philippines marks World Toilet Day every year. Last year, the World Toilet Day Celebration was with the theme: “Valuing Toilets”! The team discussed the global situation on sanitation, the health hazard and contamination brought by open defecation, valuing proper sanitation.

Children posing with model of toilets. Photo: Water & Life Philippines

Children posing with model of toilets. Photo: Water & Life Philippines

They also organized a focus group discussion on having a safe, clean toilet at home and finished by a playful clay molding of ideal toilet contest.

“What is the most striking memory I have from awareness sessions in WASH/Sanitation, is when my child, after my day of work informed me after the activity she attended with Water and Life that it is important to wash hands before and after eating, from using the comfort room, from playing, etc. She also demonstrated how its properly done, and let her younger siblings do it after her. I am proud that she ”re-echo” and shared what she learned from the activity,” says Jessa S.  Austria Purok Lapiz, resident in Tangke.

Jessa Austria is a resident of the Tangke informal settlement in Cebu, Philippines.

Jessa Austria (sitting) is a resident of the Tangke informal settlement in Cebu, Philippines. Photo: Water & Life Philippines.

This year, the Water & Life team is preparing the celebration of the World Toilet Day with the theme “making the invisible visible”. In collaboration with the Philippines Red Cross, Water and Life Philippines will propose an activity of miniature structure of toilet models using recycled materials for awareness raising.

Girl showing a model of a toilet. Girl showing a model of a toilet. Photo: Water & Life Philippines

Households that have toilets but don’t have access or individual connections to water will be taught how to make a “tippy tap” to address handwashing challenge. In Mandaue, a Community Forum will be organized with the help from the City Sanitary Inspectors of Mandaue Health Office. In Cavite the community will have an activity of slogan writing contest and small symposium. In Leyte island, they plan to organize a spoken poetry contest in Waray, the local language.

What is World Toilet Day?

World Toilet Day has been an annual United Nations Observance since 2013. It was first celebrated in 2001 by the World Toilet Organization.

"World Toilet Day celebrates toilets and raises awareness of the 3.6 billion peopleliving without access to safely managed sanitation. It is about taking action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030."

You can also help spread awareness. Download the official World Toilet Day social media resources in ArabicChineseEnglishFrenchHindiPortugueseRussianSpanish, or Swahili.

World Toilet Day 2022 thematic logo.