5 Rosebell Kagumire, journalist-activist in Uganda

cropped-cropped-logo-persblog1persblog.be – The World in English suppl. – to MAIN PAGE

persblog.be – Edition 2014.06.19 – Earlier in 2014, on her blog Rosebell Kagumire published an article about water and sanitation in her country Uganda and in South-East Africa in general. She says she was startled by Uganda sanitation statistics and how the country loses a lot of money and time to treatment of diseases, which are preventable. Is it a matter of people in finance not being able to make the link that prevention costs way less than treatment. 75% of disease burden is from poor sanitation.

Rosebell Kagumire
Rosebell Kagumire

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Rosebell Kagumire: “With about a thousand days to the ‘Millennium Development Goals’ (MDG) deadline, some 780 million people will still not have access to improved water supply and many countries including Uganda are going to miss the targets for sanitation. About 2.5 billion people worldwide still do not have access to improved sanitation. About 1 billion people still defecate in the open and Uganda contributes 3.2 million to this figure.

Water supply and sanitation - pic en.wikipedia.org
Water supply and sanitation – pic en.wikipedia.org

Governments haven’t paid enough attention to the impact of poor sanitation on lives. The national economies haven’t set it as a priority area in improving human development indicators. Many NGOs in the past have largely concentrated on hand out, which have failed to bring sustainable solutions to poor sanitation.

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You shouldn’t be shocked to meet volunteers from a western country working in rural Uganda to dig latrines for people. The latrines they build aren’t like high-tech toilets, they are just a bit improved latrines that with little support, local people could build for themselves.

The failure of such handouts to deliver sanitation solutions has highlighted at this unclogging blockages conference in Kampala, Uganda. One participant told us how NGOs had built latrines for people in Kampala slums, though the majority of the inhabitants were using these latrines to keep their animals.

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Water supply - pic uganda.um.dk
Water supply – pic uganda.um.dk

Private sector. It true that where people are not reached by public sanitation services, they will turn to self-supply, alternative sources and open defecation. Looking at sanitation as business worth investing will give more responsibility to the communities and makes a lasting solution.

Michael Momanyi, from the ‘Water and Sanitation Program’ (WSP) by the World Bank –  whose mission is to increase access of the poor to water and sanitation – said: “Millions of people rely on hundreds of thousands of firms – mostly small and micro firms – for their sanitation and water needs. What we are trying to learn is whether societal problems can be addressed by business. We are particularly interested in the domestic private sector.”

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It is important in developing countries like Uganda to support local entrepreneurs whether it is in water supply business or improving hygiene.

pic ugfix.com
pic ugfix.com

WSP surveyed over 100 enterprises that serve households directly and challenges the misconception that the need for sanitation is low.

“The paradox is that sanitation is a large market dominated by small players who are constrained by capital, technology and in geographical reach. Even when money is not an issue, sanitation is a low expenditure priority.” The survey for instance found that many non-poor rural households in Tanzania did not have access to improved sanitation facilities even if they could afford them.

“The study finds that the most basic improved sanitation facility would comprise only 3-4% of the annual incomes of the poor. We find that the poor spend much more than that in the annual use of their mobile phones than it would to own a sanitation facility that would last them 10 years.”

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Finance. An interesting case study from ‘Nkhotakota Sanitation Village Savings’ and ‘Loan Banks’ in Malawi (a landlocked country in southeast Africa) brought a new aspect on financing sanitation.

Roy Khonyongwa from the ‘Hygiene Village Project’, a local Non-Governmental organization in Malawi, told the meeting how they are incorporating sanitation as part of the micro-finance.

This local Malawian NGO helped set up village savings and loan banks to link sanitation entrepreneurs and households to access loans for sanitation facilities.

“The purpose of ‘Village banks’ is to enable communities learn to save the little they have and be able to meet household needs including money for constructing or improving a latrine. Members are obliged to get sanitation loans from the contributions and the loan is paid back at the end of the week or month at an agreed affordable interest” said Khonyongwa.

Uganda - pic rosebellkagumire.com
Uganda – pic rosebellkagumire.com
pic america.aljazeera.com
pic america.aljazeera.com

Water.org  is also using micro finance to support sanitation efforts under their water credit program. ‘WaterCredit’ puts micro finance tools to work in the water, sanitation and hygiene by connecting financial institutions to communities in need of clean water and toilets. The small loans are made to individuals and households and the program is also being implemented in Uganda.

The role of micro finance institutions in developing communities in countries like Uganda, where capital is not easily available, has been tremendous. Just like families look at getting loans for education and running businesses, micro financing is one way to address sanitation needs. But this can only work well if communities are made aware of the impact of poor sanitation on the households in the long run.”

Courtesy: Rosebell Kagumire’s blog



Rosebell Kagumire is a multimedia journalist – living in Kampala, Uganda – working on peace and conflict issues in the Eastern Africa region. Formerly she worked as a coordinator for ‘Africans Act for Africa’, a network of citizens and activists from across the continent to put pressure on African governments to step up to various challenges.

Rosebell Kagumire - pic rosebellkagumire.com
Rosebell Kagumire – pic rosebellkagumire.com

She holds a Master in Media, Peace and Conflict Studies from the United Nations-mandated ‘University for Peace’ in Costa Rica. She has also studied Non-Violent Conflict at ‘The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy’ at ‘Tufts University’ Boston, US.


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