With an archipelago of over 7,000 islands, The Republic of the Philippines is the world’s 12th largest country by population. Its people have a median age of just 22.9 years, with 35% under the age of 15. Half the population is rural and it is estimated that 1 in 9 people do not have access to clean drinking water.
Where drinking water supplies do exist, the water quality leaves much to be desired. In fact, it is said to account for over 4,000 deaths every year. Sanitary conditions are also in a dire state in many parts of the country – approximately 25% of the population do not have access to even basic sanitation facilities and barely 5% of the population are said to have access to sewage systems. The majority of urban households have built their own septic tanks, but these are not maintained and waste water is not treated adequately. It is common for septic tank waste to spill into open public spaces, polluting rivers and causing severe environmental degradation.
The consequences are severe: less than half the water bodies in the Philippines are deemed potential sources of drinking water, maternal and infant mortality is high and diseases such as typhoid fever, hepatitis A and bacterial diarrhoea continue to be a major public health risk. This is also compounded by natural hazards such as typhoons, frequent cyclonic storms, tsunamis, earthquakes and volcano eruptions, which damage water pipelines.