Schistosomiasis adds to poverty burden (4)

Mayor Lovell Ann Yu, a registered nurse and municipal mayor of Alangalang, a town adjacent to Sta. Fe, has adopted a “shared toilet” for some households that do not have their own toilet. In a cluster of two or three households, the local government constructs a common toilet that they can use.

The LGU is also distributing free toilet bowls to identified households that have no toilets. The municipal sanitary inspector monitors this to ensure that it is used to put up a toilet. Alangalang is listed in Department of Health regional office as compliant with the zero open defecation.

“We had this program before but we found that the toilet bowls issued to them were made into house decorations or vases for ornamental plants,” Yu said.

“I’m sure that we no longer have cases of people openly defecating in rivers,” she added. Barangay health workers are tasked to ensure strict compliance in their respective communities.

But being a certified ZOD-compliant municipality does not redound to a low case of schistosomiasis. In 2020, the Kato-Katz annual report of the Schistosomiasis Research and Training Center shows that out of 189 stool samples tested from Alangalang, 50 of them were found positive for parasitic eggs for a positivity rate of 26 percent, the seventh highest among 34 municipalities in Leyte that submitted specimens.

Legaspi said access to clean water could be one of the reasons. “Even if you have a toilet but if you get your water to flush from a river that is infected, you will also get infected,” she said.

Adding problems to non-compliance to ZOD is the practice among many farmers to bring their carabao to rivers and streams to cool down where in many instances dump their waste in the water thus adding more opportunities for the host snails to multiply the parasite.

As rivers cut across different municipalities, LGUs that are practicing ZOD remain prone to the high incidence of schistosomiasis.

Previous studies to reduce the transmission of schistosomiasis have proposed the mechanization of farming to replace carabaos and the integration of veterinary public health activities into national strategies. Such activities include the development of a veterinary vaccine that can be administered to carabaos.

(To be continued)

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