[Press release] Yolanda-hit villages declared as first ‘Zero Open Defecation’ barangays in Leyte -Save the Children

Yolanda-hit villages declared as first ‘Zero Open Defecation’ barangays in Leyte

Western Leyte, Philippines (27 September 2014) – Today 7 Yolanda-hit barangays across 3 municipalities around Ormoc have been declared as first in the entire Leyte province to eradicate defecation in public– a practice known to cause contamination of water sources and diarrheal diseases.

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The declaration came after an authorized government body, including hygiene specialists and international organizations, certified the remote barangays of Bulak, Masaba, and San Dionesio in Matag-ob town; Payao in Villaba town; and San Ignacio, Santa Domingo and Libertad in Kananga town as the first Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) barangays in the province of Leyte. To achieve ZOD status, each household in a barangay should have access to toilet and water supply. The recognition was a big feat given that 70% of people in these communities did not have access to toilets immediately after the super typhoon.

Western Leyte has areas with some of the highest rates of open defecation in the country even before ‘Yolanda’. In the immediate aftermath, the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) cluster estimated that around 65% of areas in the region did not have access to toilets.

Save the Children has been providing remote and vulnerable areas, including the ZOD-certified barangays, with construction materials and trainings to build and repair toilets as part of its comprehensive ‘Yolanda’ response. To date, Save the Children has provided construction materials for over 6,525 toilets in 32 barangays and plans to help build 3,475 more across 47 barangays in 2014.

“Save the Children knows that the practice of open defecation poses great health risks to the disaster-affected communities, especially children. By providing communities with toilets and clean water supply, especially those in remote and vulnerable areas, we can help protect children and adults from infectious diseases.” said Tom Howells, Save the Children’s Field Manager in Western Leyte Office.

According to WHO, diarrheal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old, and is responsible for killing around 760,000 children every year. WHO added that the disease can last several days, and eventually dehydrates the body. The disease is common particularly among children and elderly.

Save the Children recognizes, however, that building toilets and repairing water lines alone may not fully address water and sanitation problems in Western Leyte. In response, the organization launched a province-wide campaign to educate people on the health risks of poor hygiene and sanitation. At the household level, Save the Children consulted with and fully involved communities and local officials in the design and construction of toilets and water facilities.

“It is not enough that we provide communities with construction materials. The communities that achieved zero open defecation were successful because they now see the importance of proper hygiene and sanitation. Without proper consultation with and full involvement of the community and the local government, these projects may not succeed in the long-term”, says Reggie Aquino, Save the Children’s Program Development and Quality Manager in Western Leyte Office.

Save the Children continues to work closely with the local government, the Department of Health and humanitarian organizations in restoring water supply systems to provide clean water; engaging schools in hygiene promotion sessions and training communities in reconstructing their toilets. Save the Children’s comprehensive response in the region includes providing communities with cash transfers, community grants for food, security and livelihoods and shelter assistance. The children’s organization is also undertaking repairs of schools, district health stations, provision of medicines and establishment of Child Friendly Spaces.
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Save the Children is the leading independent organization for children working in 120 countries. In the Philippines, Save the Children has been implementing programs for over 30 years in the areas of education, child protection, health and nutrition and child rights governance in both development and humanitarian settings.

Save the Children was one of the first organizations to pre-deploy its team during the Typhoon Yolanda to immediately assess and respond to the needs of children and their families. We are now one of the biggest responders to Typhoon Yolanda in Eastern Leyte, Western Leyte and Panay Island with field offices in Tacloban, Ormoc and Estancia, Iloilo.

In any emergency situation, Save the Children aims to respond to the critical needs of children and families inside and outside of evacuation centres, addressing concerns related to relief, child protection, education, health and nutrition including clean water supplies, sanitation, food security, and shelter.

For interviews with our spokespersons, please contact April May Sumaylo at 09173011240 orapril.sumaylo@savethechildren

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