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Achieving 100% sanitation coverage starts with small steps

Published on: 01/11/2021

Kijura

The case of Kijura Town Council in Kabarole District, Uganda.

Kijura Town Council is a municipality in Burahya County in Kabarole District Western Region in Uganda.

Map of Kijura Town Council

Kabarole District is endowed with a wide range of surface and groundwater sources. The population depends on these sources for household water supply, which is delivered through different technologies like shallow wells, deep bore holes, gravity flow pipe schemes and protected springs.

However, water quality has been an issue due to the hygiene practices and other human activities that have a direct impact on the water drawn from ground and surface sources. In July 2017, the Ministry of Water and Environment under the Albert Water Management Zone partnered with IRC and the Kabarole District Water Office to undertake an assessment of groundwater quality. This was in response to the rampant and reoccurring water related diseases that were being registered in Kabarole District. National statistics indicated that 68% of patients visiting health facilities are suffering from diseases caused by poor hygiene and sanitation.

The survey found that the most common cause of contamination was poor management of water supply infrastructure and their surroundings, as well as poor hygiene practices at household level.

Key among the conditions that contributed to unsafe water was runoff stormwater, open defecation, substandard sanitation facilities and construction of latrines in areas that have high water tables. E-coli contamination was particularly high, affecting 80% of the sources, with shallow wells being the most affected.

” The shallow wells and their construction are such that people draw water from just right below the handpump, we call this surface water not groundwater. The wells are constructed in places where the water source table is high, and when a water table is high, it is vulnerable to all forms of contamination, from stormwater and latrines, as they are so close to the level where the water is being drawn”, Martin Watsisi, Regional WASH Advisor at IRC, noted.

The resolve to address the sanitation challenge in Kijura Town Council (TC) was motivated by research and IRC's WASH data collected in 2017 showing that over 60% of water sources were contaminated. Water quality provided cause for concern, with 41% (especially the shallow wells, protected springs, and tap stands) testing above WHO limits for E-coli.

These results were used to start the ‘Water Safety Planning approach’ an effort to improve the water quality at the water source. Following this water quality assessment to address the challenge of water safety, IRC worked with the Albert Water Management Zone to introduce and promote the Water Safety Planning Approach as an approach to control water source contamination in Kabarole District. This approach is widely recognised as a reliable and effective way of managing water supply to safeguard public health. Water safety planning involves curative measures that bring together community members and technocrats to conduct a risk assessment around a particular water source and devise means to manage the risks. Applying the water safety planning approach to all sources in the district would mitigate the dangers related to consumption of unsafe water. 

As the efforts towards attaining a general clean environment around the water sources intensified, attention was shifted to household hygiene and sanitation. Extension workers started sensitising people on the importance of maintaining sanitation and hygiene at home and how that relates to water safety. The construction of standard latrines to end open defecation is taking centre stage. 

This process also triggered an action whereby the Community Development Officer (CDO) Kellen Kanyunyuzi cascaded the Water Safety Planning to Kijura Town Council. The process was started with leaders improving their own household sanitation to motivate communities to do the same, with the belief that for total sanitation and hygiene to be attained, households must be free from open defecation, and they must manage waste responsibly. The effects of sanitation on water sources cannot be overemphasised. This action by the CDO prompted the local leadership to find a solution to the problem, and a campaign dubbed ‘Sanitation begins with Your Leader’, was launched in April 2019. An 11% increase in latrine coverage among households in the Town Council was realised, and this triggered local leadership to seek out partners to assist in scaling the sanitation efforts.

Sanitation coverage in Kabarole District

IRC Uganda came on board in November 2019 to assist the Town Council to prepare a roadmap to improve sanitation and hygiene in the town.

The Town Clerk and council members to the Executive Committee developing a roadmap for Kijura Town Council
The Town Clerk and council members to the Executive Committee developing a roadmap for Kijura Town Council

The roadmap was informed by the following strategic considerations:

  • Sensitisation of local community through existing community groups,
  • Involvement of local leaders and politicians in the sensitisation meetings,
  • Enforcement of by-laws on sanitation and compliance to regulations in issuance of building permits,
  • Promote community cooperation through cells (smaller units in the village/parish administration structures) for construction of latrines at household level,
  • Conduct joint monitoring visits/inspections by local leaders and technical persons, with use of digitised data collection templates.

The roadmap was completed and adopted by the Town Council in 2019-2020 and has been translated into the local language, which has not only enhanced ownership, but also enabled effective implementation of the roadmap by the local community.

A number of strategies were put in place for sanitation and hygiene improvement in Kijura Town Council:

  1. The secretary of Community Based Services will share the roadmap to achieving 100% sanitation and hygiene coverage. And seek approval on enforcement for noncompliance of the building plans and occupation permit. It is expected that the Executive Committee will submit this at the next Executive Committee Meeting.
  2. To conduct a sanitation awareness meeting for all stakeholders at town council level to emphasise ending Open Defecation, good sanitation and law enforcement and on conducting a sanitation crackdown on schools, tea factories, commercial buildings and households that will be noncompliant.       
  3. Politicians/councillors will take the lead in community sensitisation meetings at cell level, with the help of technical staff to achieve 100% latrine coverage. The purpose of the sensitisation meetings is to create awareness and change people’s attitude to sanitation. There are already 40 existing community groups that the politicians will use as platforms for sensitisation of households. The households will be given a specified time for completion of latrine construction. Failure to do so will lead to enforcement in the form of penalties and /or arrest with the use of existing instruments such as the building plan compliance and occupation permit.
  4. Politicians/councillors to make a move of grouping households into a cluster of 10 in every cell so that households support each other in latrine construction. This will be done with the help of the Local Council and Village Health Teams (VHT).
  5. The councillors together with selected technical staff will conduct a two-day follow-up through home visits to monitor progress. A chosen ward will be monitored by the councillors and technical staff on the same day and at the same time, since they will have divided themselves into groups to visit each cell and record findings using a standard template provided by IRC or the Assistant District Water Officer in charge of sanitation. 
  6. Enforcement of the households and commercial premises without the required sanitary facilities. And at that point enforcement spearheaded by the Town Council will take its course.

This article was reviewed by Martin Watsisi, Jane Nabunnya Mulumba, Naomi Kabarungi and Angela Huston, and edited by Tettje van Daalen