Water is a necessity for all living beings, and access to safe water is a basic human right. Despite the world’s experiencing exponential growth in all areas with advances in science and technology, 663 million people are without access to clean water. The country of Uganda is no exception: 51% of Ugandans are in need of safe water resources. This lack of clean water affects the health of the Ugandan people, their productivity and their economy. Here are some of the realities everyone needs to know about the water crisis in Uganda.
The Current State
Currently, 21 million Ugandans lack access to safe water. One in nine people lack quality water and have no alternative to dirty, contaminated water sources. The stress of economic growth over the last two decades put an enormous strain on the land and its resources. Up to three-quarters of the surface water in Uganda is polluted, making it unsuitable for consumption. With no other choice but to drink contaminated water, people are often too sick to work or attend school.
Human waste, soil sediments, fertilizers and mud all run into drinking water sources due to the widespread absence of proper toilets and showers. Additionally, the lack of adequate filtration systems and the loss of vegetation, which acts as a natural filtration system, creates dirty water that leads to various health problems. 144 million Ugandans are still collecting water directly from these rivers, lakes, and other surface water sources. According to the World Health Organization, over 3,000 small children die a year from diarrhea in Uganda. Other waterborne diseases include hepatitis A, dysentery, typhoid and cholera.
The water crisis in Uganda also makes 40% of Ugandans travel more than 60 minutes to access safe drinking water. Some travel up to three hours a day, without a guarantee of finding water. Excess time spent on water provision hinders people’s ability to work, maintain the household and take care of children.
Initiatives for a Better Future
Many initiatives are underway to address the water crisis in Uganda and the problems it has created. For example, in 2013, Water.org launched its WaterCredit solution, which has led growth for water and sanitation loans. This initiative has reached 259,000 people and disbursed $10.3 million in loans, helping to create long-term solutions to the water crisis in Uganda.
Another program addressing water in Uganda is the Uganda Women’s Water Initiative, which transforms contaminated water into clean and drinkable water for school children. Over 300 women in Gomba, Uganda were trained to build rainwater harvesting tanks and Biosand filters. The simple filter consists of layers of rock, sand and gravel that remove 99% of bacteria from water. Funded by Aveda and GreenGrants, this initiative also conducts programs about hygiene and sanitation to support these women. Thanks to this program, school children are safe from typhoid and diarrhea that could keep them sick and out of school. Remarkably, Gomba saw a reduction of school absences by nearly two-thirds thanks to filters and harvesting tanks.
Additional projects that focus on drilling new boreholes in barren areas and repairing existing boreholes help relieve long travel times for water. Generosity.org has concentrated on rehabilitating boreholes by working closely with the District Water Departments of communities in need. Generosity.org also aided in the development of water user committees, which create an infrastructure to ensure the boreholes are maintained and cleaned through fee collection. Its work aims to achieve the sustainability of these boreholes for the future, putting an end to the water crisis in Uganda.
Ugandan leaders have recognized that water is a basic human right and understand that better water and sanitation systems are critical for a healthy society and a stronger economy. The Ugandan government now aims to have clean water and improved sanitation for everyone by 2030. Uganda plans to reach this goal by investing in quality water infrastructures, which involves restoring and maintaining clean water sources as well as promoting hygiene and investing in sanitation facilities. The organizations that are providing loans for wells, restoring boreholes and creating filtration devices are helping realize this ambitious goal. This focus on making clean and safe water available to everyone is critical. Without water, there is no life.
– Tara Hudson