Save the Children Philippines has appealed for better access to safe water and functional toilets particularly in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao to stop the spread of communicable diseases among children.
The children’s organization made the call in time for the World Toilet Day celebration on November 19 to highlight behavioral change and implement policies to increase access to safe water and functional toilets particularly to children in deprived and marginalized situations.
Save the Children Philippines partnered with the European Civil Protection Humanitarian Aid Operations in the construction and repair of school toilets that benefit 7,100 students enrolled in schools in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.
Lawyer Albert Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines said access to safe water and functional toilet, along with hygiene education are critical for displaced learners to return and stay in school.
He said the integrated life-saving support in emergencies program was implemented to children displaced by armed conflict and violence in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte and Surigao del Sur following a series of gunbattles between government forces and rebels from May 2017 to July 2018.
The programs include education in emergencies, water and sanitation facilities and child protection in times of emergencies.
“Children are 20 times more likely to die from diseases due to unsafe water, sanitation and poor hygiene practices,” said Muyot. The humanitarian response also considered children’s voice as they identified lack of access to functional toilets and handwashing areas in schools as their common concern.
He said Save the Children Philippines works with the Department of Education to enhance its Information Management System and train teachers on effective Disaster Risk Reduction programs, including water, sanitation and hygiene initiatives.
“We put greater emphasis on addressing issues faced by girls such as managing menstruation when they are in school and ensure that the needs of children with disabilities and children who are not in school, are considered,” said Muyot.
The consultation with displaced children showed that 39 percent of the students reported that their nearest source of potable water is at least 15 minute-walk from school.
“Leaving school premises to get water pose multiple hazards and protection issues for children,” said Muyot.
Save the Children Philippines continues to strengthen partnership with schools and local communities in conflict-affected areas under the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in providing education in emergencies, psychosocial first-aid and empowering children to be resilient.
The training program: Batang Empowered and Resilient Team” (BERT) teaches basic knowledge on Disaster Risk Reduction through actual demonstrations and classroom activities.
It was introduced to children affected by typhoon Yolanda in schools in the Visayas but now the Department of Education (DepED) has adopted the course for children facing the impact of displacement and violence due to armed conflict in Mindanao.
“Most of the children feel safe inside schools as they believe that the teachers and adults can protect them, thus, it is our duty as adults to ensure they are safe and protected from preventable diseases,” said Muyot.