Finally, toilets for Arakan tribal community

ARAKAN, North Cotabato —At the crack of dawn or any time of the day, Lorena Nogan and her family, along with the other residents of Kinawayan, a mountain village here, would separately walk discreetly to the bushes-not to play hide and seek but to defecate.

Each would look for a spot, rag in hand, oblivious of the danger of stepping on human wastes littering the terrain.

This has been the routine of housekeeper Lorena, 35, her husband Roberto, 38, a farmer, and their five children ever since.

"Not even one toilet here. We are all ashamed of our condition," Lorena said.

The mountainous community, home to 216 farming families mostly belonging to the Manobo tribe, is typical of Arakan's rugged outskirts, where families barely eat three full meals a day and bereft of the most basic facilities. Even water source is scarce here.

"Kinawayan merited a reputation of topping the town in terms of open defecation," Grace Rivera, a village health worker, said.

"The village's fields would make for the "world's largest toilet." This has been a key health concern as the practice makes people prone to water-borne diseases and food sources become contaminated, thus increasing the burden on the family," she added.

Rivera said that diarrhea, caused by poor sanitation facilities, is prevalent in the village and is generally spread through contaminated food and water.

Diarrhea is a major illness and cause of death among children under the age of five here, she said.

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