MBALE – Before the advent of 2020, residents of Budadiri East in Sironko district could only tell bad tales when it came to safe water supply.
Walking for long distances, dirty river water and constant diarrhea linked to unsafe water and poor sanitation, all defined their quest to access safe water.
The most affected areas were Butandiga, Bukiise, Bumalimba, Bukyabo, Bumasifwa, Bugitimwa, Busiita, Busulani, Zesui and Masaba sub-counties, which ironically are bordered by Rivers Soloko, Kado, Gogkyi, Namili, Zebugusi-all flowing from Mt Elgon.
Mr Joseph Gimanga, the LCI chairman of Kitwe village in Bukiise sub-county said politicians have for decades used lack of water in the area as a campaign tool but then vanish as soon as they are elected.
“We appreciate Mr Masereje’s intervention and urge him to continue providing for us as far as water, hygiene and sanitation are concerned,” said Mr Gimanga whose village Wogubuka spring well has been built for the first time since 1970.
Mr Francis Walyamboga, the LCI chairman Gibinda and NRM chairman Gibinda parish in Butandiga sub-county said that locals had had to walk long distances in search of safe water with the most affected being women and children.
The absence of water and sanitation facilities meant they walked hours each day for water and would go to the bathroom anywhere in the hills or in the bushes in running water.
But the 2020 politics brought into limelight a man; Mr Richard Masereje who has built spring wells and latrine pits across the constituency to enable local residents get safe water, the situation has greatly improved.
Mr. Masereje is an Advocate and Chartered Valuation Surveyor and a managing Partner at Masereje & Co Advocates has drilled spring wells across the Budadiri West constituency, sank pit latrines in all trading centres to improve the hygiene and sanitation situation in the constituency.
Mr Oliver Nabukwasi from Bukiise sub-county told PML Daily that the project has changed lives by improving water supply in all the eight sub-counties.
“Our water is now clean and safe for drinking and in the near future Budadiri West constituency might not see the need to buy bottled water just because of Mr Masereje,” said Ms Nabukwasi who used to walk about 5km to fetch clean water for her family.
Ms Nabukwasi is not alone, many women, thousands of villagers in the nine sub-counties have celebrated this gift of safe clean water and named it “Masereje water” across the ridges on Mt Elgon in Budadiri East.
Mr Nimrod Magomu, 85, “said that Budadiri East constituency had never had access to clean water “And I want express great appreciation to Mr Masereje for this, thanks for providing for us these spring wells, they are ours today but will also be for our children, for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren,”
Villagers said openly about the occurrence of domestic violence in the homes and that women and children are the main gathers of water for families.
“Since their source of dirty water has been miles away, it can take several hours to gather water and return home and both women and men admitted that sometimes husbands assume their wives have been cheating and will beat their wives,” said Mrs Abigail Nakayenze from Bukyabo sub-county.
Mrs Evelyn Masaba from Bumalimba said that given their new sources of clean water constructed by Mr Masereje, beatings have been stopped and domestic relations are going to improve greatly.
Ms Anet Negesa, 47, a mother of six from Kizinga village in Bumalimba sub-county, said during the rainy season the water sources are hard to reach because of the steep roads and the slippery, soggy grounds.
“I am happy that Nambalenze spring well will help daughters to be secured from defilers who usually waylaid them on the way to fetch water,” said Ms Negesa.
First time to get clean water
Residents of Budadiri East County are for the first time since independence enjoying access to clean water for domestic and livestock use, following the completion of various spring wells by Mr Masereje in the region.
The community has for decades relied on water supply from Rivers flowing from Mt Elgon and unimproved water sources, such as ponds, shallow wells and rivers which have been murky and dirty indicating high contamination levels.
Mr Herbert Mulekwa, the LCV chairman for Sironko said apart from being the only source of water for the people in the hills, it was also used by animals for drinking.
Mr Mulekwa explained that the water from the swamp, rivers flowing was unfit for human consumption as it caused diarrheal diseases which led to deaths of individuals but that without choice, the people kept using the water for their daily needs.
“I want to thank Mr Richard Masereje for this initiative that is going to change these sub-counties because our people are now taking safe clean water,” said Mr Mulekwa.
Eng Andrew Wasukira, the Sironko district Water engineer said with the intervention, the water burden is lightened adding that the women will now use the time saved to become more productive.
He said safe water coverage in the district will rise from 65% to 77% and urged residents to conserve the environment to sustain the supply of water.
He revealed that WHO date indicates that more than five million people die each year from diseases caused by unsafe drinking water, lack of sanitation, and insufficient water for hygiene and that over 2 million deaths occur each year from water-related diarrhea alone.
Mr Masereje who is aspiring to be the Member of Parliament for Budadiri East said that he has a programme to provide clean water and sanitation in Budadiri East and the entire Sironko district.
He said his target is to improve sanitation facilities by providing toilets and latrines, promote good hygiene habits through education, implement rainwater harvesting systems to collect and store rainwater for drinking and provide home water-treatment capability through the use of filters, solar disinfection, or flocculants, to make drinking water safe.
He explained further that he would also promote low-cost solutions, such as chlorine tablets or plastic bottles that can be exposed to sunlight, to improve water quality and proper hand washing with soap and water to reduce diarrhea cases by up to 35 percent.
“It is in my target that by 2025our people will not walk more than half a kilometre to get water and will have a pit latrine in every trading centre to improve hygiene and sanitation,” said Mr Masereje.
“We also intend to extend piped water systems in rural and urban areas and also develop the sewerage systems to serve our people across Mt Elgon hills,” he added.
Mr Masereje said that even when he is voted into Parliament, he will is push for the enactment of a National Community Works Bill that envisages promoting public hygiene and sanitation.
He urged that while there are costs incurred in the production and transportation of clean water, the ideal is for his constituents and Ugandans to access it without pay.
According to a 2017 World Health Organisation report, 80 per cent of the people who have to use unsafe and unprotected water sources live in rural areas with around 159 million people collecting their drinking water from surface water such as ponds and streams.
Data from UNICEF indicates that more than 700 children under five years die every day from diarrhea linked to unsafe water and poor sanitation.
It is also true that a poor water supply impacts health by causing acute infectious diarrhea, repeat or chronic diarrhea episodes, and non-diarrhoeal disease, which can arise from chemical species such as arsenic and fluoride. It can also affect health by limiting productivity and the maintenance of personal hygiene.