APRIL 30, 2010: Northern Uganda gets Water, Sanitation and Hygiene project

Northern Uganda gets Water, Sanitation and Hygiene project
SOURCE: Uganda Red Cross
By Jacqueline Zawedde
As the former internally displaced persons return to their communities, water, sanitation and hygiene remain a key challenge to communities in Northern Uganda. But this problem will not last for long, thanks to Uganda Red Cross Society which will be implementing a WASH project. This has been made possible by ECHO.

The beneficiaries of the 10 months project will be conflict affected people that have recently returned to their ancestral villages. These are the sub-counties of Pabo and Amuru in Amuru district, Bungatira, Bardege and Laroo in Gulu district, and Kitgum Town Council in Kitgum district. The project started off in January this year.

Other partnering institutions in the WASH campaign are UNICEF,AVSI,ACF,CONCERN, CARITAS, ASB,GOAL COOPI,AMREF,AID AFRICA,PSI , OXFAM and LWF, the Uganda Red Cross Society has come up to fully assist the population in Northern Uganda as much as possible to attain conducive standards of living.

Northern Ugandaholds a large proportion of the country's population which has been affected by violence and war over the last two decades. The Acholi sub region, covering the four districts of Gulu, Amuru, Pader and Kitgum has been hit hardest. In turn, there are many latent conflicts which exist between individuals, families, ethnic groups, and between civilians and government authorities. Although the situation has improved lately and many displaced people returned back to their homes and livelihoods, it has left long term effects upon them.

Generally, access to basic services remains problematic in the areas of return. Health facilities are in poor condition, there are limited health personnel and medical equipment. HIV/AIDS remains a major challenge as the incidence of infection is estimated at 12% according to the Ministry of Health.

According to URCS Deputy Secretary General Dr. Bildard Baguma, access to essential WASH services in the areas of return is poor and has actually dropped over the past years in some areas as people move away from good facilities in the camps to areas without any facility at all.

In the Acholi sub-region, the most common diseases reported both by district sources and households are respectively malaria, respiratory tract infections and diarrhea disease. The region is also prone to outbreaks of epidemics. In 2008 Hepatitis E hit Kitgum and Pader districts with more than 8200 cumulative cases reported and 126 deaths, 37 weeks after first case was confirmed. Cholera outbreaks also occur, the last one being in 2007.

The URCS intervention will ensure that returnees have access to improved water, sanitation and hygiene and adequate amounts of healthy food, to improve the general health status.

Dr. Baguma said the proposed action aim at distributing environmental sanitation kits at parish level to enable interested families to dig their own latrines and address additional needs in the field of sanitation.

Families with their own latrines will get a 3 liters jerrycan to enable them have a hand washing facility on the facility. According to the project document, a very important part of the action is hygiene promotion aiming at people adopting most critical hygiene practices.

This process will be implemented in very close collaboration with the responsible government officials from the different Directorate of Water Development as well as other actors involved in the provision of safe water.

During the subsequent years of conflict the URCS has been able to successfully implement programmes in the areas of Food Security, WASH, HIV and AIDS/Gender Based Violence.

In addition, the URCS has been very active in distribution of essential house holds items and health interventions. Throughout the implementation of its core activities, the URCS has received technical and financial support from Red Cross partners as British Red Cross, American Red Cross, Germany Red Cross, Danish Red Cross, Swedish Red Cross and Netherlands Red Cross.

The current URCS hygiene promotion program in Acholi (Northern Uganda) is being implemented with the funding support of the Swedish Red Cross (SRC) and the technical support of the ICRC. This proposed action in Acholi is designed in such a way as to be a continuation of these activities given the fact that many challenges remain to be addressed.

Among the activities to be carried out under the WASH project are developing Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST) tool kits, training of 72 PHAST groups each consisting of 25 members, implementing a mass hygiene promotion campaign using appropriate communication methods, regular village cleaning campaigns organized by URCS volunteers, monthly health inspections and sub-county meetings by hygiene assistants and local authorities among others.

During implementation of the project, URCS volunteers will continue to monitor all field activities and together with assigned project staff prepare the necessary quality documentation and reports on a monthly basis.