Inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) represent an important health burden in the Philippines. The non-governmental organisation Fit for School intends to complement its handwashing programme in schools with sanitation interventions. The objectives of this mixed-method study therefore were to describe WASH practices and their impact on childhood diarrhoea in the Philippines, and to examine socio-cultural and environmental factors underlying defecation and anal cleansing practices in Northern Mindanao. We quantified the effect of WASH practices on diarrhoea through logistic regression models, using the Philippine Demographic and Health Survey 2008. When adjusting for non-modifiable factors, susceptibility and socioeconomic factors, WASH factors failed to show a statistically significant effect. Focus group discussions were held with women in urban and rural Northern Mindanao, and findings analysed using thematic analysis. Defecation and anal cleansing behaviours were constrained by the physical environment, particularly the lack of clean, safe, comfortable and private facilities. Individual determinants of behaviour were influenced by habit and motivations such as disgust, with some evidence of planned behaviour. Where available, water was the preferred material for anal cleansing. This study combines nationally-representative quantitative data with local in-depth qualitative insights, constituting critical formative research in the development of effective and appropriate interventions.
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