KAMPALA — More than 9 million Ugandans defecate out in the open, causing significant health risks such as diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid, which may lead to death.
The country also loses a whopping UGX. 150 billion annually due to poor sanitation, this is according to 2020 sector report.
Open defecation, the practice whereby people go in fields, bushes, forests, open water bodies, or other open spaces to defecate, is pervasive throughout Uganda.
The practice is persistent in both rural and urban areas. The population that practised open defecation in 2019/2020 reduced to 22% from 22.8% in the 2018/2019 financial year.
The percentage of the rural population having access to safely managed sanitation experienced a slight decline from 7.1% to 7% in the 2019/2020 financial year.
This means that the other segment of the population, 93%, was either accessing basic sanitation, sharing sanitation facilities or practising open defecation.
In urban areas, access to safely managed sanitation services increased slightly from 37.4% to 38.9%.
This is evident in Kampala, where most both public and private toilets are closed at night.
The few private and public facilities that exist charge up to UGX.300 per use of a toilet, which sometimes is not affordable.
Speaking during the celebration of World Toilet Day, Hellen Kasujja, the deputy Executive Director Community Integrated Development Initiatives (CIDI) said the figures are embarrassing and should awaken everyone to take action.
“When you have a bad toilet where faeces are exposed, it is open defecation. This is because flies will take it to the community. When it rains, the faecal matter will mix with water,” Kasuja said.
“There is need for enforcement in some areas where people are stubborn. The bylaws need to work where other means have failed,” she added.
The day was celebrated in Mutungo Bina, Nakawa division.
World Toilet Day is celebrated on November 19 to inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and help achieve SDG 6, which calls for sanitation for all by 2030.
World Toilet Day 2021 is drawing attention to the people that are left behind without access to sanitation.
Solutions such as pollution prevention from source, treatment of waste and wastewater, and applying sanitation safety plans are important for water quality which impacts human and environmental health, food and agriculture supply chains.
The opportunities from a healthy and clean environment and clean water not only increases GDP but wastewater treatment produces bioenergy and electricity, the reuse of reclaimed water augments the water supply, and produces organic fertilizers (biosolids) thanks to its high nutrient content, which can create a new business and also enhances soil quality. Reclaimed water can be directed for recharging depleted groundwater aquifers to prevent land subsidence and seawater intrusion in coastal aquifers.
Kasuja said there is still a gap in the provision of sanitation services with in the communities and “therefore as we commemorate the world toilet day today as Right to Grow consortium and national partners we continue to call on different stakeholders to improve the uptake of sanitation services and reduce sanitation related diseases like diarrhea, cholera which inhibit the absorption of nutrients hence under nutrition”.
On her part, Evelyn Miyingo Zalwango, CIDI programme Director called on all local governments, KCCA, cities and municipalities to enforce the public health act which requires that every building must have a toilet in place.
“Ministry of Health, Education and Water should prioritize funding for institutional sanitation for health care facilities, schools and high ways,” she said.
“Cities, Urban growth Centre administrators should reduce on the toilet fees for public toilets to make them affordable hence reduction in open defecation”.
“Local governments with support from Ministry of Water and Environment should support and engage in awareness creation campaigns to improve hygiene practices and compliance to the sanitation laws and ordinances”.
Mutungo Zone B women leader, Kiiza Harriet, Nabakyala, Zone Two said said stakeholders must expand access to toilets and leave no one behind.
“Because whoever you are, wherever you are, sanitation is a human right”.
Four NGO under their umbrella body Right to Grow Consortium-Uganda: R2G including (The Hunger project-Country Lead partner, Action Against Hunger, World Vision and CEEGA) in collaboration with five local partners including; Community Integrated Development Initiative-CIDI, Food Rights Alliance-FRA, Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group-CSBAG, Nutrition Society of Uganda-NSU, Movement for Community Led Development are working toward advancing the nutrition-WASH nexus in a multi-stakeholder approach to enable every child achieve their full potential.