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Philippines Set to Launch the International Year of Sanitation

Series #:08/18

In Manila: Leonora Aquino-Gonzales (632) 917-3003
Anissa Tria (632) 917-3013
In Washington: Mohamad Al-Arief (202) 458-5964


Manila, February 14, 2008 – THE country is set to launch the International Year of Sanitation on Feb. 18 in a bid to reduce economic losses of P77.8 billion per annum, according to a new study that will be released the same day.

The United Nations General Assembly designated 2008 the International Year of Sanitation (IYS) to promote improved hygiene practices and action to provide proper sanitation for the 2.6 billion people who lack access to this basic human right. The Philippine Department of Health (DOH) is spearheading a series of advocacy activities along with other national government agencies, NGOs, business groups, and international organizations to be implemented throughout the year. The launch will be on February 18 in Mandaluyong City with speeches and exhibits at the city hall, followed by a caravan going to a nearby public school.  At the school there will be ceremonial handwashing by VIPs, soap making demonstrations, and a Captain WASH mascot to promote Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) among the children.

The theme of the event is "Sanitasyon ang Solusyon," and expected speakers are the Honorable Mayor Benjamin "Benhur" Abalos, Jr., DOH Secretary Francisco T. Duque, DENR Secretary Lito Atienza and Miss Earth Philippines Jeanne Harn. Congresswoman and Ecology Committee Chair Belma Cabilao will also grace the event, having become a sanitation advocate after attending the East Asia Ministerial Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene (EASAN) in Beppu, Japan on Nov. 30 to Dec. 1, 2007, where she spearheaded the development of an action agenda for the Philippines.
The major objective of the event is to heighten public awareness on the economic impacts of poor sanitation on a national level as well as to call on lawmakers, economic planners, investors and the media to act responsibly to solve the problem, a DOH spokesperson said.

During the event, the DOH and DENR secretaries will present several new publications: "Operations Manual on the Rules and Regulations Governing Domestic Sludge and Septage," published by DOH with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); "Economic Impacts of Sanitation in the Philippines" published by the World Bank Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) with cofunding from USAID; and "Sanitation Technology Information Kit" published by USAID in cooperation with the League of Cities of the Philippines. The Economics of Sanitation Initiative study estimates the economic losses of 31 premature deaths per day, reductions in fisheries and tourism and other sectors as a result of poor sanitation.  Health care costs accounted for 71 percent of the total losses due to 38 million cases of diarrhea per year, it showed. But improvements can reap large benefits: according to the World Health Organization (WHO), for every dollar invested in improved sanitation, a country can reap up to $9 in benefits.

DOH is joined in the IYS launch by other members of the Philippine Ecological Sanitation Network (PEN): DENR; Department of Education (DEP-Ed); World Bank's Water and Sanitation Program for East Asia and the Pacific (WSP-EAP); USAID's Environmental Cooperation-Asia program (ECO-Asia) and Philippine Sanitation Alliance; United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); Plan International; World Health Organization (WHO); Association of Metro Manila Environment Officers; League of Cities of the Philippines (headed by Mandaluyong City Mayor Benhur Abalos); Solid Waste Management Association of the Philippines, Center for Advanced Philippines Studies, Streams of Knowledge, German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and Molave Youth Foundation Inc. (MYFI).

The IYS celebration highlights the importance of sanitation and hygiene on human health, economic benefits, dignity, development and environmental protection, and the doable approaches to improve sanitation. "Sanitation is a necessity. Investments are needed to provide proper toilets, sewage treatment facilities, equal distribution of safe water, and to promote simple hand washing to reduce these huge economic losses," a PEN spokesperson noted.

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