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.