The reality of water in Uganda

When we finished our 7-hour drive from the airport to Soroti, there was one main observation that continued to capture our eye. Along each road or scattered throughout rural areas, hand pumps were everywhere. Is there an actual clean water issue in this area? A lot more investigation had to occur to understand what all of these hand pumps mean and if they are working.

When you look at the local water and sanitation district reports, you notice that over the past few years, water coverage and functionality are going down. Simple said, the number of people that used to have water now don't and is beginning to decline steadily. This report was confusing because it did not care or cover what is significant, year-long clean water. Using the phrase "water coverage" implies they have a water source, but it could be clean or dirty. "functionality" is defined as working during a site visit. A site visit could have been completed during the wet season and not the dry season when water resources are at their lowest.

As an organization working to help and gain peoples trust, we need to ensure all of our efforts and projects are long lasting, work year round, and give a clean water source.

After completing our research, it was time to enter the field. We visited a few of these handpump sites and noticed a few specific observations. Rarely, the well works year round and provides a clean water source. A majority of the water wells are broken or only work for 5-6 months of the year. We visited one community well that described it as such:

"The pipes are rusted and often fall apart because we never learned how to take care of it. The water stops flowing during the dry season. When there is no water, we walk 4kms to the next town to find water."

The reality of water in this area of Uganda was becoming apparent. Many completed projects were finished cheap and quick resulting in a small lifespan. Organizations wanted to move fast often forgetting to help everyone or setting them up for failure down the road.

We visited one community that has no clean water source. Small hand dug wells are present, but the water is a dark murky brown. We visited one of the hand dug wells and saw a dead mouse floating in it. A community member said, "That happens all of the time. We just scoop it out and then take a drink." When the dry season occurs, all of their hand-dug wells go dry. "The dry season is a dark time," the entire community stressed. When they have no water for the dry season; plants die, livestock dies, and children are at risk as well. "The wild search for water begins, sometimes walking up to 6 kms."

After learning all of these details, the urge to help only grew. The dry season begins in November and extends to February. We can help and provide a clean water source before the dry season is over.

Two Days Before Departure

In two days, we will leave for our departure to Uganda. Once we arrive, it is then a 7-hour car ride northeast to the Serere District. For two weeks, we will meet with community members, schools, and hospitals to access their need for clean water and proper sanitation. Word has already spread locally of our visit, spreading celebration and excitement through the entire district.

Our primary focus of this trip is to learn about the Owiny-Agule primary school and figure out together, how we can help provide a basic human need. They reached out to us in April 2018 to talk about the poor sanitation and water conditions the school has. The school houses close to 750 students with half being female. The girls carry the burden of collecting water for their families every day.  They have two times they can go and collect water in their family. The first is before school. If the walk is not too painful or too long, they might be able to make it to school that day.  Walking during the day can be dangerous because of attackers, animals, and assault. Many will choose for the second option, begin their walks at sundown. This option has its own unique difficulties including walking alone at night or getting hit by a car. A clean water source at the school can eliminate all these fears and improve health. 

Clean water without proper sanitation means nothing and the Owiny-Agule community knows that. The school only has one bathroom stall for all of the girls. Many will leave school early because of the long lines present. Most school children will openly defecate to make sure they do not miss any of their classes. The human waste from openly defecating can poison any water source it comes into contact with.

Together with the community, we have proposed a project that will improve water, sanitation, health, education, and gender equality. This upcoming trip will teach us about the technical feasibility of the scope of the project. To ensure there is long sustainability, community members will be involved in every step of the process. 

The Owiny-Agule Community

Owiny-Agule is a 2,400-person community that relies on small agricultural means to make a living. Staple crops that are not consumed are sold at a market 5 km away. The only water source is a lake 2 km away.  The community suggests drilling a borehole and distributing water throughout the entire community. The project will be focused at the Owiny-Agule primary school to try and use water to benefit education. 

There is only one primary school in Owiny-Agule with 1,300 students. The school is located about 1/2Km from the lake, the only available water source. Women, girls, and boys from the community spend more than 2 hours to fetch water from a small lake. During lunchtime, the children run down the lake to drink water. The lake water is not protected. Community members will defecate in the open contaminating the lake water. Other people trek to the lake to wash their clothes and bodies or take the water to their homes. While in the lake, people and animals defecate in the open. In addition to that, animals also use that same water source.  As a result, people and pupils are exposed to water-borne diseases such as cholera, dysentery, diarrhea, hepatitis, and typhoid. Almost half of the people in the community visit local clinics as a result of water-borne diseases.


 The primary school only has 2 pit latrine which filled up just after half a year. Pupils have to stand in a queue to use the same existing full pit-latrine during break or lunchtime. As a result, most students stop returning to class. Due to inadequate sanitation facilities, students defecate in the open, in the bushes, or simply leave school.  In addition to lack of sanitation facilities, the school does not have hand washing stations- since there is a severe lack of water it has affected health, hygiene and the economic condition of local people. At least 4 of every 10 children in the school are infected with water-borne diseases every year. Local public health authorities regularly close the school due to disease outbreaks and lack of sanitation facilities.

MissionCleanWater will be traveling to visit the community and see what solutions we can create with the community. 

The Great Water Wars

The necessity of water is always present. As communities grow in population and economically, their demand for water increases. With a higher income, people want to consume more and all of their consumption needs requires water. There is only so much freshwater for everyone to use and landlocked countries can not desalinate salt water. Countries and states are fighting over water rights to different rivers which can lead to issues or even war. 

On a smaller scale, Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas have been fighting over rights to the Republican River. The Republican River is a major source of irrigation for these three Great Plains states. With higher heat and dry spells, more water is needed to irrigate crops. Colorado had to settle for $4 million with Nebraska for violating their water use rights. An ongoing lawsuit is continuing between Nebraska and Kansas because Kansas is not getting all of the water they were allocated. With climate conditions only expected to get worse, many farmers will fight with neighbors for over water use and waste. 

International issues are rising as a result of drier conditions and water rights confusions. The tension in the middle east is rising between Turkey, Iraq, and Syria about the use of the Euphrates and the Tigris River. Both of these rivers start in Turkey and flow through each of the other states. As a result of all the political turmoil in Syria and Iraq, they were not able to regularly negotiate or find a solution towards water allocation with Turkey. Turkey without telling other countries created plans to build over 20 dams to increase their water supply. Debates over water rights continued but Turkey felt they deserved more water because their land is more fertile.
This continued debate for who gets how much water never came to an answer because of the internal conflicts in Iraq and Syria. The last negotiation table ended with Syria and Iraq about to sign an alliance to go to war with Turkey if any of the dams were built.  With some of the internal conflicts ending, hopefully, an agreement can be made.

More international conflicts will rise as a result of water usage. Many countries either have no water or are wasteful. 

 

 

What does 501c3 status mean?

On July 23rd, MissionCleanWater was approved by the IRS and Department of Treasury as a federally recognized 501c3 nonprofit organization. This is a monumental moment in any organizations life. This grants admittance to federal tax exemption, legitimacy, and tax deductions for donors. The term 501c3 is said often, but many people might not know what that means. We want to share what that means to current donors, future donors, and the regulations and rules MissionCleanWater must follow. 

One of the main criteria for a 501(c)(3) organizations is transparency and communication with current and prospective donors. Being a 501(c)(3) specifically defines an organization as a public nonprofit instead of a private foundation. This means the public, upon request, can review financial information, operational, and strategic plans. For MissionCleanWater, only 2% of a donation goes towards administrative costs. The rest goes directly towards clean water and sanitation initiatives. 

Since MissionCleanWater is a not-for-profit organization, they are exempt from paying federal income tax. As a result, MissionCleanWater must file annual forms to maintain their exemption status. The annual forms completed gives the IRS and the public the chance to review their operations and see if it is still closely linked to their mission, goals, and finances.

For previous donors and future donors, donating to a 501c3 organization allows you to claim that donation on your taxes for a deduction. Even if someone has donated before MissionCleanWater received 501c3 status, your donation is tax deductible. If your donation is greater then $250, a typed receipt is needed while filing your taxes.

In the end, receiving 501c3 status is the first step to helping many communities gain access to clean drinking water. Now it is time to work together and help MissionCleanWater obtain their goal of providing water to communities in need.