BY Watchdog Reporter
At a water stream in Buhumbu parish in the western district of Kisoro; is where both residents and animals draw water for consumption especially during rainy days, it being seasonal.
Francis Byamukama, 50, who on a daily basis grazes his cattle in the vicinity, says it hurts him to see that he has to draw water from the same source he feeds animals.
“You have to trek kilometers to find a clean water source,” Byamukama says that the situation has rendered him and other residents mostly the elderly and children to opt for runoff water from contaminated sources.
The challenge is however aggravated by the shortage of toilets in the area forcing the residents to use the nearby bushes, he adds.
The situation is even worse when it rains and a mixture of human waste and cow dung is all washed into the open stream given the low toilet coverage in the area that those who come to fetch water use the nearby bushes for open defection.
As a result, the situation has rendered the residents vulnerable to waterborne diseases.
“I end up suffering from diarrhea at least twice in a single month. It is the most disturbing disease in this area,” he adds.
The poor sanitation and hygiene in Buhumbu parish is typical of most communities in Kisoro district and other rural areas at large which has had an impact on the national rural sanitation and hygiene.
According to the water ministry, improved water supply sources include boreholes, protected springs, shallow wells, and rainwater harvesting tanks,
Current figures from ministry of water and environment indicate that access to safe water in rural areas is at 65 per cent lower than that in urban areas at 77 per cent as by 2016, which has been held responsible for poor sanitation and hygiene in the former areas.
Mr Ronald Kibuule, the state minister for water and environment says that as an intervention to ensure universal access to clean water by 2030, the ministry has earmarked Shs736b to drill boreholes and make water affordable for all people in rural and urban areas.
“No one should sell a jerry can of water more than Shs50which make him even more opportunistic,” Mr Kibuule remarks but adding that there is still need for government to increase resources allocated to the water and sanitation subsector.
Mr Kibuule says: “It is my humble appeal to government to consider the strategic position of Ministry of water and environment in the country’s development ladder and appropriate the necessary resources.”
The water and environment performance sector report of 2016 showed that that there is insufficient funding to accelerate water supply and sanitation coverage in the water-stressed areas due to high investment requirements.
The report also indicated that the water and environment sector has maintained a stable share of approximately 3.0 percent of the national budget, which has not enabled the Sector to achieve its targets over the years.
The Sustainable Development Goal six aims at ensuring that people can be fully served if they have access to safely managed drinking water services, with a water source that is located on premises, available when needed and free of charge.
However, the problem of poor sanitation has remained persistent even in circumstances where there have been interventions like establishment of toilets and other clean water sources by both government and non-government organizations.
Ms Gloria Berophan the senior program coordinator of Rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at Water Aid Uganda, a community based NGO says the rigid culture and beliefs in rural communities have frustrated their efforts most of the time.
“For instance, areas like Karamoja, they have a culture that in-laws are not supposed to share toilets”.
She adds, “Pregnant women are also not allowed to go to toilets because they believe the baby may drop into the pit.”
Berophan says, such primitive beliefs have promoted open defecation in those communities.
Due to the failure of appreciation of such interventions, Berophan says, “you find that some areas have well-constructed toilets but are not used.
Her concern is shared by Mr Kibuule who says that local government leaders have not done enough to help and repair the broken boreholes and spring water “which have remained redundant in the affected areas over small repair problems”
The effect is, however that, the economic and health cost of poor sanitation has not only carried a burden on the community but also to the entire country at large.
The Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) desk study of 2012 under the ministry of water, indicated that Poor sanitation costs Shs389 billion to the country annually largely in terms of treatment.