Sitting on the Pacific Ring of Fire, and its entire eastern coastline facing the vast Pacific Ocean, the Philippines has seen the worst calamities in recorded human history. However, we are a resilient race, never bowing down to nature's fury. We come together and rebuild, hoping for the best to come out of each and every disaster.
This year, Globe has initiated a program called #GLOBEProjectWonderful2014. This telecommunications giant has joined hands with the government, non profit humanitarian groups and volunteers to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, a Category 5 Super Typhoon that left the Visayas in a pile of rubble.
In their efforts to create a better world for our less fortunate brothers, Globe has given me the chance to send them ideas on how they can extend more help. They'd choose the best idea and turn it into a reality. The task is simple. All I have to do is to answer one question...
"If there is one thing you can give to the Philippines, what is that gift?"
I was in deep thought for several days. I listed things like stop the wars, better people in government, better textbooks for public schools, etc. etc. I asked the same question to family and friends. I got responses like money, money and more money. Oh my, are we that desperate for money? We can only be good until we have spent the last centavo. So I scratched out money from the list.
Sometimes, ideas come to you in the most unusual time and place. Mine did. I was in the toilet doing my morning duties when it dawned upon me.
I would want to give latrines/toilets and access to clean drinking water for the entire Philippines! I want them constructed in the far flung baranggays and tribal lands, in the poorest neighborhoods and rural areas, along provincial highways, and in evacuation sites.
In the Philippines, an estimated 26% of Filipinos do not have improved sanitation, translating to more than 24 million people (UNICEF WHO Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation 2012 Update). Almost 8 million Filipinos are openly defecating, which is the third highest total in the Asia Pacific Region.“Under the leadership of the Department of Health, the Philippines has made significant advances in sanitation over the last 20 years, however we are in jeopardy of not reaching the 2015 Millennium Development Goal on Sanitation because the poorest 20% of the population is sliding,” says Tim Grieve, Chief of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene in UNICEF Philippines.
Over the last 20 years, the poorest 20% of the rural population went from 36% open defecation to a staggering 48% open defecation. Poor sanitation and poverty go hand in hand, and the rural poor are four times more likely to practice open defecation than in urban areas. Sanitation coverage in poor provinces such as Masbate and Maguindanao is as low as 38% and 30% respectively (FIES 2009).
It is alarming to know that despite the economic growth, millions upon millions are still living in dire conditions. No toilets, no clean drinking water.
Children in the poor rural areas are tasked with fetching water from a well or an open pit to use for household purposes - cooking, cleaning, bathing, washing clothes, and yes, drinking. In worse case scenarios when the well dries up, these people get along with water from a pond or stream.
Without proper sanitation and clean drinking water, we are putting our brothers' lives at risk. Water borne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, intestinal parasites and other infections abound and directly affect children under the age of five.
Latrines/toilets constructed in these areas must be accessible, safe from flood and sturdy enough to withstand an earthquake. The same should be with the water supply. A perfectly engineered reservoir to store water would be best to ensure every household would still get clean drinking water if a calamity would strike. Maintaining these facilities should be addressed by the local government and by the collective effort of the beneficiaries. One successful project by UNICEF similar to this has been put in place and it is my wish to have more of them. Adult education and aggressive campaign to push the importance of sanitation and frequent hand washing should go hand in hand with the construction of these facilities.
I wish to see this dream fulfilled. I have no financial capacity to do this on my own. However, with Globe's Project Wonderful 2014, I am confident that the people behind this campaign would hear my plea. Should my idea be chosen among the millions of entries, Globe would make this dream into a reality.
Let's do it for the sake of the future of this nation - our children.
If you were to be asked the same question, What gift would you give to the Philippines? (If my "gift" gets chosen, Globe will also choose the most creative reader comment on this post and award them with an iPad mini.)
Share your thoughts. Support #GlobeProjectWonderful 2014 and let's all work towards achieving a better Philippines.