July 6, 2011WaterAid has helped introduce the first flushing latrines on the isolated Nsazi Island on Lake Victoria in Uganda, paving the way for safe water and sanitation practices as well as improved health.
Helping fishing communities in Uganda
The lake is the main source of water for both animals and humans. Health authorities say the water is not safe for human consumption due to contamination.
The program to help the poor and marginalized fishing communities on the island has been carried out by WaterAid in partnership with the Ugandan Ministry of Health.
As well as seeing the construction of two public restroom blocks with
cubicles for men, women and people with disabilities, and a shower
room, the program has empowered the communities to advocate for improved sanitation.
John Kantonso, a local leader, said: “The sanitation and hygiene
condition on the island has not been good, but ever since WaterAid
started supporting the project, the situation is gradually changing for
“The two communal restroom blocks constructed are just a drop in the
ocean; we are very grateful to have them but we need more. We shall
continue pressurising the district local government authorities to take
the lead in promoting sanitation on the island.”
The marginalized fishing communities of Nsazi
Public toilet blocks on Nsazi Island, constructed with the support of WaterAid.
The fishing islands on Lake Victoria, 20 miles from Kampala City, are
inhabited by a multicultural and transient community, which is largely
illiterate, poor and subject to ill health made worse by the lack of
access to safe water and sanitation. Prostitution, drug abuse and
alcoholism are rife.
The presence of different tribes with different cultural beliefs and
taboos around sanitation and hygiene has made the practice of open
defecation by the lake rampant. Despite this, the lake is the only
source of water for the island inhabitants who use it for drinking,
cooking, cleaning and for their animals.
The island has an average population of 5,000 but this can soar beyond
7,000 during a good fishing season. Dysentery, diarrhea, malaria and
intestinal worms are the most common diseases affecting children under
the age of five.
Because of their geographical isolation, the areas are often
overlooked by the local government and development agencies. The
islanders are still waiting for the construction of a public restroom
promised by the district local government two years ago.
Introducing improved sanitation
There were many challenges to introducing improved sanitation
facilities to the island. The location of the island meant building
materials were difficult and expensive to source. Additionally, the land
is rocky and subject to collapsing soils, so the few private latrines
that had been built previously are just a few yards deep.
As a solution to the collapsing soils, WaterAid helped construct
latrines using a pour flush technology, where the waste is directed to a
septic tank with holes in to let the wastewater permeate through the
soils 300 yards away from the lake. The remaining sludge can be scooped
out, emptied to another pit and sanitized with ash to kill pathogens.
WaterAid has worked closely with the community to ensure sustainable
changes to the sanitation behavior on the island. Community members
were taught how to build more affordable toilets using locally available
materials, such as lake sand and rocks instead of bricks. Meanwhile,
functional management committees have been put in place to help the
facilities run smoothly and ensure all adult users pay a fee.
There are also ongoing community water, sanitation and hygiene
awareness campaigns using drama to target children as sanitation agents
Davis Ddamulira, WaterAid’s Head of Advocacy and Communications in Uganda, added:
“Through the project, community members are empowered to be their own
advocates to influence better service provision on Nsazi Island.”
WaterAid’s work will therefore hopefully have an even wider reach and
longer lasting impact for the fishing villages on Lake Victoria as well
as paving the way for other isolated and marginalized communities to be
reached through government and NGO support.