Published on: 01/11/2021
The case of Kijura Town Council in Kabarole District, Uganda.
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.
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 roadmap was informed by the following strategic considerations:
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:
This article was reviewed by Martin Watsisi, Jane Nabunnya Mulumba, Naomi Kabarungi and Angela Huston, and edited by Tettje van Daalen