Legislation in Ugandan parliament threatens to undermine the work and transparency of the country’s aid organizations. The bill, described by opponents as “draconian,” will put the power of aid organizations in the hands of the government. It will add restrictions and control measures that will essentially put NGOs under work for the government rather than an apolitical frame. Particularly in areas such as government accountability and humanitarian rights, NGOs are under threat of total government control.

The bill, as outlined, would limit the growth of NGOs in Uganda, which have “led to subversive methods of work and activities, which in turn undermine accountability and transparency.” According to junior minister James Baba, the bill has been made to ensure NGOs do not introduce immoral Western practices into the country. “Some of these organizations are involved in our politics and championing morals that are against our culture, which is totally unacceptable. They have to operate in the respective areas we licensed them for easy supervision and monitoring.”

Others, such as Rama Omonya, a policy coordinator at Oxfam in Uganda, say the resolution will strictly limit the work NGOs will be able to do. It will give power to the internal affairs minister and national NGO board to supervise, inspect, restrict and dissolve all NGOs functioning in the country. Furthermore, NGOs could only work in areas where they have been approved by district NGO governing boards and with whom they have signed a memorandum of understanding. In the event of an emergency such as a landslide, NGOs would have to seek the approval of the district undergoing turmoil before working there, wasting valuable time and supplies and leaving many people suffering while waiting for the help and resources of aid organizations. If an NGO does not renew its permit, it can be fined or punished for up to eight years. Officials would have the right to search NGO office at any time and dissolve or suspend its work for actions they deem inappropriate or anti-government.

The subjective nature of this new bill would put NGOs at risk and under the strict control of the government. Humanitarian organizations and watchdog civil service organizations in particular need freedom and independence from government supervision in order to report crises and send aid to the communities that need it. According to Omonya, these organizations are vital to the welfare of many living in Uganda and should be given expanded, not restricted powers.

Beyond delivering aid and human service, NGOs in Uganda also provide education, healthcare and human rights reporting. Under the guise of the government, its power and aid potential would be severely curtailed. The accountability and transparency the government claims it would be enforcing would indeed be lessened, restricting the well-being and humanitarian conditions of people in need of aid in Uganda.

Jenny Wheeler

Sources: NGO Forum, Irin News
Photo: Flickr

Every day, over 9,000 people living in the Mitoomi-Bushangi districts of Uganda walk many miles to retrieve water that is contaminated with harmful bacteria.

The Ryan’s Well Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing clean water supply in underdeveloped communities, is working on their project, Protected Springs/Latrines and Handwashing, which will complete a series of projects that are providing clean water, latrines and education to people living in western Uganda. The project is set to establish 25 protected springs, 16 of them for primary schools, build four latrines at a local primary school accompanied with six hand washing stations, and create water committees that will provide training on how to properly wash hands and practice good sanitation. When complete, 8,100 students and teachers will have access to clean water.

In 2014, Ryan’s Well Foundation completed their Uganda: Water and Sanitation project. This project supplied 37 protected springs, prevented diseases by enhancing protection for women and youth through workshops, and increased awareness in schools about washing and hygiene. The project also provided a 25,000 liter rainwater harvesting tank, four latrines and a girls washroom, and training on maintenance and repair for the springs and tank.

With over 500 completed and ongoing projects, Ryan’s Well Foundation has successfully provided over 750,000 people in 16 developing nations. Their projects focus on raising funds to build water and sanitation systems and educating youths about the importance of water conservation and sanitation.

The foundation’s core programs include the Youth in Action Program, Getting Involved Program, and the School Challenge Program, with all three of them narrowing down on educating students in elementary and secondary level schools to practice safe and smart water habits. The organization, located in Kemptville, Ontario, Canada, was started by Ryan Hreljac in 2001.

In 1997, seven-year-old Hreljac recognized the need to provide clean water to children in Africa. With the help of his friends and family, Hreljac fundraised enough money to build a well at the Angolo Primary School in northern Uganda. Since its incarnation, Ryan’s Well Foundation has helped build more than 740 wells and 990 latrines, providing clean water to families who would normally be without.

The Ryan’s Well Foundation has open and completed projects in West Africa, East Africa and Haiti. Their primary targets comprise of Uganda, Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania. Right now they have nine active projects in Northern Togo, Ghana, Western Uganda and Burkina Faso. These projects currently revolve around providing access to clean water in primary and secondary schools.

Julia N. Hettiger

Sources: Ryan’s Well, Gaiam, My Hero
Photo: Ryan’s Well Foundation

ugandan private sector
USAID attempts to artificially prop up Uganda’s floundering public health care system have fallen flat, largely due to Uganda’s unwillingness to accept foreign aid. USAID has responded by investing in the Ugandan private sector instead.

After signing the internationally condemned anti-homosexuality bill into law, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni declared that, “Uganda is a rich country that does not need aid, because aid is in itself a problem.”

However, it is President Musevni’s mishandling — and at times flat-out denial — of foreign aid funds that has proven to be the more menacing problem. About three quarters of Uganda’s public health spending comes directly from foreign aid, but that money has largely been squandered.

A recent World Bank survey revealed that the majority of all Ugandan public sector health workers were not showing up for work, and life-saving drugs were frequently out of stock.

Currently, only two percent of the population has health insurance. As such, health care is a major expense to Ugandans, who spend an average of 22 percent of their incomes on health care. The situation is even more dire for the poorest members of the population who are often forced to sell their assets in order to pay their medical bills.

While public health care must certainly play a central role in the future of Uganda’s health system, the private sector represents a promising alternative. Given the misuse of USAID’s previous investment in the public sector, the organization is now looking for a better way to improve the quality of health care in Uganda.

With an investment of only $315,000 from USAID, the organization has worked with local banks to open $10 million in private lending earmarked for the Ugandan health sector. Through a process of risk-mitigation and direct loans to local medical centers, USAID has managed to significantly bolster the Ugandan private health sector over the course of a mere three years.

One of the loans — amounting to about $25,000 — was given to Rhona Medical Center. The Medical Center used the loan to purchase new, state-of-the-art equipment as well as to hire additional personnel. As a result, the revenue for the facility doubled and the amount of patients receiving higher quality service increased fourfold.

Success stories like that are cropping up all across Uganda. In time, greater competition and a renewed faith from local banks mean that private health care will become a more viable option to the lower class of Uganda.

USAID already has plans to use a similar private partnership to guarantee loans for young girls’ school fees, and future USAID projects in Uganda will likely take cues from the early successes investing in the private sector.

Given Uganda’s unwillingness to accept foreign aid, circumventing the Ugandan government entirely may prove to be the most effective method to support Ugandan development. It appears that the success of USAID’s investment in the private sector of Ugandan health care may signify a paradigm shift in the international community’s approach towards aid in Uganda.

— Sam Hillestad

Sources: USAID Blog, Health Market Innovations
Photo: Hydro World