By Andita Parker Lloyd
Masindi, Uganda– Today we visited the Masindi Office of the Water Trust (http://watertrust.org/), several schools they helped with latrines and/or wash systems, and community water tanks/wells put up by the trust. You might not understand why that is important but hopefully you will shortly.
Imagine a cup of brown cloudy water to drink with your breakfast. Are you excited for that drink? How about washing your hands or body from water that an animal has defecated in? Imagine urinating in a bush or squatting over a rotten wooden hole in the floor. What would you do without your toilet paper or the “new” flushable wipes some people like? If you are struggling to imagine these types of things, I would not be surprised.
According to http://www.merriam-webster.com/, sanitation is the process of keeping places free from dirt, infection, disease, etc., by removing waste, trash and garbage, by cleaning streets, etc. I noticed that the rural schools we visited during our entire trip were lucky to have a latrine with a cement cap. This was an improvement from the previous latrines if they had one previously.
The rural schools had various ways of getting water but I don’t recall any one of them having running water. This lack of clean water and effective latrines causes a problem with creating a germ-free environment. You want a sanitary environment to help reduce diseases and infections.
The Water Trust helps with this problem in the Masindi and Kiryondongo Districts. The population of these two districts is estimated to be around 480,000, according to watertrust.org. Rachel De Souza just recently took over as the Program Manager in Masindi and appears to be eager and up to the challenge of creating community collaborations for healthier people.
Ugandan women spend an average of 3-5 hours fetching water each day. (The Water Trust)
We learned that the Water Trust has several projects in place and is successful because they work with the communities and not by bypassing the communities. The local governments help them decide which schools to target and then they go in an assess what might be needed as the highest priority.
The Water Trust can help with shallow hand dug wells, latrines, wash systems, and borehole wells. They also help with educating the community by using Sanitary or Health Clubs comprised of students, Water Trust staff, and teachers. They have a drama group that uses skits to talk about sanitation. This has improved the conditions of the people in these communities. Students can be late or miss school depending on how far they have to go to acquire water. Students also miss school when they are ill with illness due to contaminated water. Female students may not come to school due to menstruation.
Students who participate in handwashing awareness programs have 40% less absenteeism in school. (The Water Trust)
Students missing school results in inadequate learning. The education system has enough difficulties without the added difficulty of unsafe or unavailable water. I am glad that the Water Trust has been established to help these communities practice more sanitary ways of life.
These sanitation practices will help ensure the future generations of Ugandans will be educated without the hardships that unsafe water and inadequate sanitation practices. “Mazoea ya maji safi na salama itasaidia Uganda kufanikiwa” means “Safe water practices will help Uganda prosper” in Swahili.
Water is essential and we all have to take time to treasure and conserve this natural resource that is not endless.