Press Release
October 15, 2008

Gordon pushes for proper hand hygiene among public school pupils

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today pushed for proper hand hygiene among public school pupils as he noted that millions of children are afflicted with numerous diseases due to lack of sanitation.

During Wednesday's celebration of the first-ever Global Handwashing Day at the West Rembo Sports Complex in Makati City, Gordon urged public school pupils present in the event to practice regular handwashing to prevent infections and illnesses brought by improper hygiene.

"We should make handwashing a habit so that we would not be vulnerable to diseases usually caused by bacterial infections," Gordon told the school children.

"Children in our country are at a greater risk of suffering from diarrheal infection and intestinal worms, not only because of improper hygiene, but also due to substandard sanitary facilities in our public schools," he added.

Gordon noted the lack of toilet bowls in public schools is enough to expose students to various viral infections which could lead to diseases such as diarrhea, the fourth leading cause of deaths among children less than five years and the third leading cause of child illness.

The country's toilet bowl to student ratio is at 1:151 for grade school pupils and 1:102 for high school students. In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the ratio is at 1:171 for elementary and 1:250 for secondary students.

Gordon said the reason for such lack in clean school facilities is the inadequate funds for health and education infrastructures.

The Department of Education's (DepEd) 2007 budget for medical, dental health and nursing services is only at P40 million for the more than 17 million students enrolled in elementary and secondary public schools in school year 2006-2007.

Gordon said such predicament is one of the reasons why he wants the immediate passage of his 'text-for-change' bill or the Health and Education Acceleration Program (HEAP), which seeks to fund backlogs in education and health infrastructures by requiring telecommunications companies (telcos) to remit a portion of their net earnings from local text messaging.

"Health facilities and environmental sanitation are needed in many schools which can improve the health status of our school children. Through the HEAP bill, there will be a comprehensive medical and dental treatment for the pupils and their teachers," he said.

"Providing our school children with better sanitary facilities and teaching them good hygiene through proper handwashing would protect them against many diseases and would allow them to do better in school because they are fit and healthy," he added.

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