Hygiene improves health in Karamoja
By Hope Mafaranga
We shall not wait for Karamoja to develop is saying most of us in Uganda grew up hearing. The saying referred to many things in Karamoja, a region regarded as the poorest in everything ranging from poor hygiene, hunger, drought, diseases, cattle rustling, guns and ever begging for food aid.
Open defecations and scarcity of water were the face of Karamoja which gave room to diseases related to sanitation and hygiene.
The lack of water and sanitation facilities means people often fell sick and could not look after their families.
In 2012 an outbreak of Trachoma infection was reported in Moroto district with more than 5, 000 cases confirmed. The disease affected the areas are Lutome, Rupa, Nadunget sub-counties and Moroto Municipality.
The area also suffered of diarrhea and typhoid was also among the key diseases that affected the people of Karamoja.
Dr. Vincent Emiron the Moroto district health officer, however said with improved sanitation facilities cases of trachoma have complete reduced.
“Karamoja has the potential to eliminate sanitation challenges and with the support from development partners we are in the right path,’ he said.
He explains the trachoma infection presents itching of the eye, eye discharge, swelling of the eye and if left untreated or not treated immediately, trachoma can cause the inflammation of the conjunctivitis of the eye and as a result a person becomes blind.
He said Trachoma is the world's leading cause of preventable blindness and occurs where people live in overcrowded conditions with limited access to water and health care.
Mascha Klein, Senior Project Manager Water and Sanitation at KFW Development Bank said the situation prompted German Development Cooperation to finance water projects in Karamonja.
Over 30m euros will be injected in urban centers of the region by the end of the 2016, saying the region was chosen due to the importance and urgency of interventions in the water sector.
Viva con Agua in partnership with Welthungerhilfe are supporting different WASH projects in this region.
“Clean water and working toilets are necessary for health and survival but they are short supply in Karamoja. Toilets are scarce and the sanitation standards are very poor,” she said.
Klein said the project will not only help fight water borne diseases, but the water points will also make life easier for women and children who had to fetch water multiple times a day from the most unsafe water sources.
In 2014, Welthungerhife carried out a WASH household survey and a water inventory assessment in Moroto which showed that access to safe drinking and appropriate sanitary and hygiene facilities was significantly limited.
Christian Schniepper the Welthungerhife programmes coordinator said only five percent of the household surveyed had hand washing facilities. “The water inventory revealed seven percent out of 33 boreholes were nonfunctioning while nine pout of 33 boreholes in Moroto municipality were contaminated with coli bacteria,” he said.
He said they have also improved on sanitation through the construction of semi-pit latrine and constructed some in schools with sanitation facilities and rehabilitating the existing structures.
In Namalu sub-county, Nakapiripirit district, the project built a town water supply comprising of storage reservoir, pump station, water offices and chlorine house, chlorine mixing and dosing units.
Ecosan toilets were constructed using local materials at house level to boost sanitation in the area.
The Namalu sub-county chief in Nakapiripirit district Benon Okong said in October last year the toilet coverage stood at four percent but it has increased to 40 percent after Welf Hunger constructed pit-latrines and sensitized communities on water, sanitation and hygiene.
Okong said many water bodies were contaminated and communities were using water from unprotected wells.
Eng. Paul Kato the branch manager of Water Sanitation Development Facility in the ministry of water said they have 19 water supplies in the region which will last for more than 20 years.
Eng. Kato said the with funding German Development Cooperation 3,100 residents of Namulu has benefited and of these 1500 are school children.
He says the project has constructed water tanks, pit latrine blocks, training for WASH advocates and is conducting WASH campaigning in schools, households’ and policy level.
Pit latrine with girl’s washrooms
At schools the project constructed pit latrines and added washroom for the girls with aim of having them wash and change their sanitary towels during their menstruation periods.
“We have been able to retain 1,300 girls in primary schools in Namulu since the washrooms were given the schools. This is a miracle as we do not take this kind of achievement for granted,” said John Lorot the Nakapiripirit district LC5 chairperson.
He said the project has been so helpful in mitigating all the soil challenges to ensure Karamajongos get pit latrines.
“We have collapsing soils and when the Welf Hunger noticed, they again came and gave us a hand by constructing ecosan toilets so that the health of the people is not jeopardized,” he added.
Lorot said the region is also facing a high number of malnourished children, which he also said is health problems.
40 percent of Karamajongo no longer have cows and they should now be focusing on food production in order to end food insecurity and solve malnourish challenges.
“Rainfalls patterns are irregular, Karamojango are not interested in food security because many grow food but give it to Nile Breweries for money,” he said.
However a number of them have started changing after GIZ started giving me seeding in order to adapt to climate change.
What is missing is the knowledge
“Illiteracy in Karamoja is high but with change of mind Karamoja has the potential of feeding herself,” the Climate Change Adoption team leader Kurt Rudolf said.
He said to fight the issues of the malnutrition; the GIZ has initiated a junior field school s to train children right from primary schools to understand the important of good feeding.
Karamajongo have been giving an excuse of not growing food due to scarcity of water but this will come to an end.
Rudolf said “ We are have identified two catchment water areas to reduce amount of surface water runoff, restore water, rehabilitate the large scale and spatially wells, dams, valley tanks, ponds , reduce soil erosion and conserve water will go a long way to ensure that Karamojoa grows food ,” .
The cost of the pit latrine
The local have to spend only sh 60,00 to have latrines in their homes. Eng. Dirk Said all you need is two wheelbarrows of sand, small stone and 1 bag of cement to make a slab of the toilet and the latrine will be made.
“As little as sh 60,000 to bring a two stance of pit latrine and we are teaching the community to construct for themselves,” he said.
The project also constructed community pit latrine where four households use one latrine and clean it in turns.
This has also reduced the cultural and beliefs that young children and pregnant mothers do not use toiltes.
What people say
John Awate a resident of Katanga a: The hygiene of the area has improved and these have also solved the issues of the water borne diseases. People have been sensitisse and they drink boiled water and wash their hands every time they visit the toilet.
Hellen Lopwono a resident of Naitakae: Women have known the importance of good hygiene and we are now involved in digging pit latrine and we teaching our children how to use latrines which was not the case before.
Natalina Moro Okech a resident of Katanga B: people used to shun the water from boreholes but now we have over 800 people fetching clean and safe water from boreholes and people no longer go to unprotected and shallow well to get water for their domestic use.
Deborah Mutonyi, head teacher of Namalu mixed PS: Since they gave us the toilet with a washroom for the girls, completion at primary seven has increased from eight pupils to 25. Girls used to stay home because they had no place of changing their sanitary towels.