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Published on: 05/03/2018

Take a moment to think about a physically handicapped teenage girl - let's call her Mirembe. Her parents are farmers in rural Uganda, who spend most of the day tilling the fields. Because of her extreme physical handicaps, Mirembe cannot attend regular school. Today she is experiencing her monthly period and needs adequate, safe water and soap to keep clean. The nearest source of safe water is one kilometre away - moreover it is a borehole which can only be used by able-bodied people. The only sanitation facility in Mirembe's reach is a community shared latrine, and to use it she has to crawl in, her bare hands touching the not-so-clean floor.....

This may sound hyperbolic but it is a reality that plays out among the populations that do not have access to WASH services in Uganda. Lack of access to WASH services manifests in numerous ways and comes with innumerable negative health and economic effects.

For example the use of "flying toilets" among the urban poor who lack access to proper toilets; open defecation among the rural poor who have failed to construct latrines; filth and disease in areas where solid waste is not properly managed; numerous girls who abandon education for lack of menstrual hygiene management facilities in their schools; the villagers who risk their lives crossing a busy highway to fetch water from a scoop hole in the nearest valley; ......The list is endless!

With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework for development interventions, the ideal is to attain universal access to WASH services by 2030 – leaving no one behind. Every citizen of the world must have access to safe and reliable WASH services.

Uganda has made great progress in improving access to safe WASH services over the last ten years. In rural water supply, access to safe water has increased from 64% in 2010 to 71% in 2017. Similarly in sanitation, access to an improved facility in rural areas has risen from 69% in 2010 to 86% in 2017. With over 30% of Ugandans without access to a safe water source, and another 30% without access to an improved sanitation facility, there is a lot more work to do.

Uganda's current population is estimated to be 42,946,833. This means that over 12 million people have no access to a safe water source, nor an improved sanitation facility. This is supposed to be a crisis!

The oft-told story of WASH highlights the successes that different sector actors have attained. Stories abound of approaches, innovations and interventions that changed the lives of entire villages and communities. In spite of the numerous innovations and interventions, 30% of the population is unserved – and their story untold.

To bring the plight of the unserved to the fore, the WASH Agenda for Change (WA4C) partnership worked with the mainstream media. Journalists were deployed to different districts to document the predicament of the unserved population. This compilation presents some of the stories that were published in the newspapers as part of the process of telling the untold story of WASH.

There are many more stories in different parts of the country and they all need to be told - if only to attract the necessary attention and action. The WA4C partnership will continue working through different communication and media platforms to uncover the untold WASH stories waiting to be told.

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