Paddy Lutalo discusses WaterAid's work in UgandaJuly 2012
WaterAid has worked in Uganda since 1983, enabling the country's poorest communities to gain access to safe, sustainable water supplies and sanitation. Kay Frew from our New York office caught up with Paddy Lutalo from WaterAid in Uganda to find out some of the current issues facing the program there:In your country only 35% of people have access to safe water. How is WaterAid working to change that?
Uganda we have taken on the holistic approach of providing a package of
water, sanitation and hygiene education (WASH), because improving on one does
not necessarily mean success
A child carries water through the slum of Kifumbira, a maze of garbage, unplanned housing, mud and human waste which flows through makeshift drains, Kawempe District, Kampala, Uganda.
WaterAid Benedicte Desarus
in the other. We are targeting nine
districts currently – Katakwi, Amuria, Napak, Pallisa, Masindi, Kampala
Capital City, Nakapiripirit, Kotido and Mubende – these areas are the
worst performing in terms of easy access to water and sanitation.
the bigger picture is the policy-makers, right to the parliament. We
are using implementation [of water, sanitation and hygiene programs] as learning tools that can be replicated in
other areas that are experiencing similar WASH challenges. The
approach is to influence local government to take the lead on WASH service
delivery and ownership and they are impressed with our approach.
Currently we are working on setting up a parliamentary forum so they can
address WASH issues wider on a national level– this is a huge milestone
in terms of bringing out the reality of Uganda’s WASH challenges.
Previously, there have been other forums that address issues of
education, gender imbalance, health or HIV etc, but this will be the
first forum for water and sanitation.
What do you see in these districts?
see very high levels of poverty – these communities are marginalized as
they are very rural far from social services delivery centres and often
with very bad roads. These communities are mostly dependent upon
agriculture, either small scale or subsistence farming, where they grow
just enough grain foods for their own use at home.
also have very high instances of diseases and mortality rates. They are
forgotten communities of a human race living on the same planet earth
like many of us. What sort of technologies does WaterAid use to help people build new water supplies and sanitation facilities?
are using technologies that are:
1) local and can be embraced by the
2) those that can be replicated by the communities
those that are eco-friendly.
A rainwater storage tank built with WaterAid's assistance at a school in Uganda.
Photo: WaterAid / Caroline Irby
This depends on the nature of the local
area terrain. For example, we use rainwater harvesting
where rain is
plentiful at some times during the year. Some rainwater harvesting jars
could hold up to 10,000 liters, which can be used for a family for maybe three to six months during a dry spell. In drier areas, we are using deeper
wells or boreholes. We are using shallow wells less because the water
table is dropping. In Northern Uganda, we are looking at sand dams, to
address issue of water scarcity. This is important in these areas where
Pastoralists live because they need water for their animals too which
is a source of their livelihood.What differences do you see in the communities that WaterAid has helped gain access to safe water and sanitation?
WaterAid’s intervention, we see a reduction in instances of disease.
Bringing water closer to the communities has so many positive
What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
- Children can now go to school as early as possible,
instead of spending many hours walking on the roads to get water from
- Communities can use water for economic enterprises,
like poultry farming to earn some small income.
- Where there are
water user committees to maintain boreholes, these committees can manage
revolving funds paid by the people to use the water that can also be
used for people to borrow, like microfinance, especially for women’s
implementation is very challenging, especially the weather patterns,
which have become very unpredictable. For example, many of the areas
where we work are prone to floods. Traditionally there were two rainy seasons (late fall
and spring), but the rains have been inconsistent for 10 years now.
these communities are hard to reach – in terms of doing interventions,
you need to invest a lot of resources in transportation, like fuel whose
price is increasing day by day. So in the long-term this often
requires high costs that are separate from the costs of just building
the WASH project.Thank you for talking to me. Is there anything else you would like to tell WaterAid’s supporters in the US?
I would like to say
that we strongly appreciate and are glad that there are generous people
out there who go out of their own way to put their own time and
resources to change lives for the poor – those who cannot get to where
they are. We are grateful that they go out of their way and the bring
on board others to help too.
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Safe water for Sila
Nineteen year old Sila Adeke from the Katakwi District of Uganda now has access to clean water from a WaterAid well in her village. She told us:
“The water from the old source was too dirty! We had no option but to drink it. We used to get up in the morning to fetch water only to find that dogs and animals had been drinking it, making the area around it muddy. The water contained small worms. Before there was sanitation education here people used to go to the toilet around here and their feces would wash in.”
“People in my family would get sick, the children would get worms. We would go to the hospital to be treated but we would still have to drink the same water so it would happen all over again. We all fell sick on rotation in my family. One person would get ill, followed by another. The nearest hospital is 18km away.”
“The distance from my house to this old source is around two kilometres. I used to get a headache collecting water from there because it was a long walk in the sun. I would sometimes have to wait a long time before my turn came to take water from the hole. I have no shoes and the walk was very painful, through all the bushes. I used to try to put a saucepan of food on the fire before I went, to save time. By the time I got back home with water the food would often be burnt.
“Now the situation is very different because we now have safe water. The borehole is much closer to my home so I can fetch more water than before. Washing clothes is so easy now and can be done at any time of day. The rate of illness is much lower. We don’t have diarrhea or worms any more.
“I can now clean all the household utensils and use a whole jerry can for washing plates. The new source is always with us, unlike the old source which used to reduce in level in the dry season.
“Nowadays you can drink the water and you feel the softness in your throat. It is clean, clear, the taste and smell are good. It only takes one minute to fill a can so I can collect more than before.
“My child would have grown up using that water from the old source. It would have to drink that water and wash in it. I would be disturbed that it could grow sick. With this new source my child will grow up healthy and I am not concerned that it will grow sick. I can keep it clean, I am not worried about germs."
Photo: WaterAid / Caroline Irby