Iloilo province leads ‘zero open toilet’ campaign in W. Visayas

ILOILO CITY -- The province of Iloilo became the first province in Western Visayas region to achieve 'zero open toilets' for safe sanitation.

The seal for the zero open defecation (ZOD-Grade 1 status) of Iloilo province was unveiled in a ceremony Friday, November 18. At the unveiling are (from left) Carlos Vasquez of UNICEF Philippines; Dr. Rosalyn Bianzon and Dr. Maria Sophia Pulmones of DOH, Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr.; and Dr. Maria Socorro Colmenares Quiñon of the Iloilo Provincial Health Office. (Capitol PIO)

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF Philippines) and the Department of Health (DOH) conferred Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) Grade 1 status to the province of Iloilo on Friday (Nov. 18) ahead of the World Toilet Day on Nov. 19.

The citation for Iloilo province, which consists of 42 towns and the component city of Passi, was attributed on the fact that its two million inhabitants have abandoned the use of open toilets.

Thanks to the programs implemented by the administration of Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. and the Iloilo Provincial Health Office (IPHO), led by Dr. Maria Socorro Colmenares-Quiñon, the number of water-borne diseases such as diarrhea and acute gastroenteritis cases has dramatically decreased in the province.

Carlos Vasquez, UNICEF Philippines’ chief for the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) program, said in a press conference the feat was largely due to the strong leadership of the provincial government.

Quiñon shared that it was not an easy task if you consider the communities in far-flung mountain and island barangays (villages), where people used to rely on open toilets.

The provincial government is now working to reach the Grade 2 status for ZOD, which means that toilets and hand-washing facilities will be expanded to other public places.

Dr. Sophia Pulmones, OIC acting regional director of DOH-6, urged other local governments across Western Visayas to replicate the feat of Iloilo province as a means of improving health and sanitation.

Lixil Philippines Ltd. Co., a private partner of UNICEF Philippines, has donated 1,250 toilet pans to the Iloilo provincial government for the establishment of additional gender-segregated toilets in schools and other public places.