CHO cites need for wash advocacy among evacuees PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 17 October 2013 11:09

City Health Officer Dr. Rodel Agbulos is citing the need for the conduct of wash advocacy among thousands of evacuees, following observations that personal hygiene and sanitation are now the focus of concerns at the JFE Memorial Sports Complex in Baliwasan, which has been transformed into the biggest evacuation center since the Zamboanga siege broke out early last month.

The Baliwasan Grandstand is presently home to more than 41,000 evacuees from the conflict areas of Sta. Catalina, Sta. Barbara, Kasanyangan, Rio Hondo and Mariki and other barangays. The evacuees’ dialect and diverse cultures are issues to be considered in maintaining personal hygiene and sanitation in the area to prevent an outbreak of any diseases.

The latest health monitoring showed that a number of evacuees have been suffering from diarrhea and skin diseases, among others, mainly due to congestion, poor personal hygiene and sanitation.

“We cannot solve the health and sanitation problems unless we decongest the evacuees at the grandstand, and transfer some of them to other sites,” Dr. Agbulos said, adding that for an effective wash advocacy or information drive Muslim professionals should be tapped considering that they speak the dialects and understand the cultures of the evacuees.

Agbulos made the suggestion during a meeting yesterday with representatives from the Wash Cluster of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Department of Health officials, sanitary inspectors and city engineers.

Specifically, the UNICEF Wash Cluster headed by Rosario Aurora Villaluna is in charge of providing and operating the plastic portalets and other wash facilities at the grandstand in coordination with the Zamboanga City Water District for the water supply, the City General Services Office (CGSO) and the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (OCENR) for dislodging/cleaning of temporary septic tanks and the portalets.

Villaluna said 100 new plastic portalets are coming by batches, of which 20 have already been delivered, 18 have just been shipped in and the rest will be coming in days to come. Thus, she suggested to withdraw the wooden portalets and those unused plastic portalets as these added to the sanitation problem in the area.

She said the new plastic portalets costing about P6 million are inclusive of dislodging and cleaning, therefore the GSO and OCENR will be free from dislodging and cleaning obligations.

The UNICEF Wash Cluster coordinator also recommended for the construction of permanent toilets with water-sealed septic tanks at the sports complex, particularly the area where junked government vehicles are piled up. It was also recommended to construct handwashing facilities at the bleachers.

The problem with portalets is that most of the evacuees are by culture not comfortable using them. They prefer to defecate in open areas just around the complex and still some use styropors and dispose of them anywhere.

The UNICEF representatives will hand over the wash cluster strategy to the CHO in two months time from now as they will move to other crisis-stricken areas in the country, where their assistance will be needed most. The draft of the handover is now being made. — Vic Larato