KAMPALA —Uganda’s rapid population growth has strained the country’s water supply, creating a myriad of problems.
A spatial map developed by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) indicates that 11 million people live without access to clean water, and this can lead to some difficult choices.
Families are faced with deciding whether they should spend hours each day walking, collecting and carrying clean water from far away sources, with 32% of Ugandans having to travel more than 30 minutes to access safe drinking water. The excessive amount of time people spend on water collection hinders their ability to work and affects the economy.
A family needs around 20 liters (5.28 gallons) per person for drinking, washing, cleaning and cooking.
Or should they be tempted to get water from a source nearer to home, which isn’t safe and risk catching dangerous diseases?
Approximately 19% of Ugandans only have access to streams, ponds and unprotected hand-dug wells as sources of drinking water. Unsafe water is one of the largest barriers to eradicating extreme poverty.
The lack of adequate filtration systems and loss of vegetation, which acts as a natural filtration system, lead to various health problems. Human waste, soil sediments, fertilizers and mud all run into drinking water sources due to the widespread absence of proper toilets and showers. According to BioMed Central, 22% of the deaths of Ugandan children under the age of five are due to diarrhea.
Disparities in access
The water crisis affects people in rural areas more than it does those in urban areas. Urban people living in poverty spend as much as 22% of their income on water from water vendors. Spending such a high percentage of earnings on water reduces overall household income, limiting opportunities to build savings and break the cycle of poverty.
Access to safe drinking water in rural areas remains a challenge that calls for joint efforts from a cross section of stakeholders to save the plight of people from contracting water-related diseases.
Ms.Jane Nabunnya, the new board Chairperson, Uganda Water and Sanitation NGO Network (UWASNET), the the national umbrella organisation for Civil Society Organisations (CSO’s) in the Water and Enviroment sector told PML Daily that there is still a severe water shortage in many parts of the country.
“There is a serious shortage of clean water in rural areas, and many people share water sources with animals. We saw this in our community and decided to use our resources to provide communities with safe water sources.”
Launching a five year strategic plan 2022-2026, Nabunnya said, “our focus has remained on water because this provides a positive and long-term impact on people’s livelihoods and prevents water-borne diseases.”
The Ministry of Water and Environment aims to have clean water and improved sanitation for everyone by 2030.
“Uganda plans to reach this goal by investing in quality water infrastructure, which involves restoring and maintaining clean water sources as well as promoting hygiene and investing in sanitation facilities,” said the Commissioner Joseph Epitu from the Ministry of Water and Environment.
Global Index, a private company that works in the fields of water engineering and environmental protection, is conducting training programs to provide technical training to community members so that they may do routine maintenance and repair on broken boreholes.
“We train selected members of the community on installation, maintenance and operation of borehole pumps to ensure water sources are well looked after and continue to provide sources of safe water,” he said.
Other initiatives to tackle Uganda’s water crisis are underway, including one spearheaded CSOs and government.