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Alebtong Residents Struggle with Water Supply

BY ISAAC OTWII

ALEBTONG, UGANDA – Residents of Omoro sub-county in Alebtong District have to spend hours fetching water enough for domestic use.

Ms Helen Abol, a 41-year old resident of Awile-awula village in Omoro Sub-county wakes up at 6:30 am ready to trek for 2km to fetch water.

The mother of three, just like other aged and youthful residents of Omoro, spends up to an hour fetching water with her 10-litre jerrican.

“I am a widow and I have only one jerrican which is 10 litre. I have been struggling with illness and as of now, I cannot afford to buy more jerricans. You find many people at the well and you have to wait for about 15 minutes to fetch water and return for 30 minutes,” she recounted.

To have 40 litres of water, enough to run the day’s house chores, Ms Abol spends half of her day, shortly after garden work to fetch water.

Omoro Sub-county LC3 chairperson, Mr Robert Okullo, says with several development partners including Divine Waters Uganda and Ryans Well Foundation, the authority is struggling to construct more boreholes in the sub-county.

“We are working hard to ensure that water is nearer to the community. For the last five years, we have been partnering with Divine Waters Uganda, 70 boreholes have been constructed. Last week, we handed over six boreholes to six villages,” he said.

As of 2014, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics indicates that Alebtong District had a population of 227,370. Omoro Sub-county has a population of 43,225 residing in 149 villages.

Water Uganda index 2018 shows the district has 1,110 domestic water points which serve a total of 240,205 people, with 233,092 living in rural areas. 336 water points have been non-functional for over 5 years and are considered abandoned.

The parish chief of Abukamola parish in Omoro Sub-county, Mr Tonny Isaac Aliro, says 26 villages in his parish lack access to clean water, making residents to spend most of their time looking for water.

“My communities depend on wells and they spend more time fetching water than engaging in productive work. These villages are not safe because they are still struggling to access water especially during a dry season like this,” he says.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) notes when water comes from improved and more accessible sources, people spend less time and effort physically collecting it, meaning they can be productive in other ways. This can also result in greater personal safety by reducing the need to make long or risky journeys to collect water.

Mr Bosco Obura, the Omoro Sub-county Chief, says residents have been trained on savings in village savings groups that has been put at each of the boreholes. The district vice chairperson, Mr Angelo Okello, says the initiative will improve on household incomes.

Mr Edwin Okabo, the Divine Waters Uganda programme manager said dialogue had been conducted with the communities to get their immediate need.

“We passed through the communities and dialogue with them to get their real need and priority. After that, we train them on how to keep and maintain these water sources,” he noted.

Omoro Sub-county health assistant, Mr Benedict Ogwal says water coverage in the Sub-county stands at 84 per cent.

However, he says the Sub-county has faced difficulty in changing the mindset of using clean water by keeping water containers clean.

“Only a few of the households wash their water containers. They follow the teachings that we have been giving them but after a few days, they resume to their normal practices. Change in attitude has remained as a challenge in the community,”

“We have been encouraging the use of two cups while drinking water. The same cup that someone has used when used by another without being washed poses a big risk of contaminating water,” he said.

Water access

In 2010, the UN General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation. Everyone has the right to sufficient, continuous, safe, acceptable, physically accessible, and affordable water for personal and domestic use.

Under the Millennium Development Goals, the target of reducing the proportion of the world’s population without sustainable access to safe water (MDG 7) was measured by the indicator of the population using improved drinking-water sources, but without taking into account the location, availability, or quality of the water.

In 2015, 5.2 billion people used safely managed drinking-water services. That is, they used improved water sources located on premises, available when needed, and free from contamination. The remaining 2.1 billion people without safely managed services in 2015 included: 1.3 billion people with basic services, meaning an improved water source located within a round trip of 30 minutes, 263 million people with limited services, or an improved water source requiring more than 30 minutes collecting water, 423 million people taking water from unprotected wells and springs, and 159 million people collecting untreated surface water from lakes, ponds, rivers and streams.

Challenges

The Alebtong vice chairperson, Mr Okello attributed difficulty in accessing water to low funding in the water sector. “The NGOs are trying to save our community from both the distance and accessing clean water but low funding in the water sector is also another challenge,” he says.

Climate change, increasing water scarcity, population growth, demographic changes and urbanization already pose challenges for water supply systems. By 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas. Re-use of wastewater, to recover water, nutrients, or energy, is becoming an important strategy. Increasingly, countries are using wastewater for irrigation in developing countries this represents 7% of irrigated land. While this practice if done inappropriately poses health risks, safe management of wastewater can yield multiple benefits, including increased food production.

Options for water sources used for drinking water and irrigation will continue to evolve, with an increasing reliance on groundwater and alternative sources, including wastewater. Climate change will lead to greater fluctuations in harvested rainwater. Management of all water resources will need to be improved to ensure provision and quality, (WHO).

RuralReporters.com is a news platform with in-depth coverage of under-reported issues in rural communities in Nigeria and across Africa. We report on Agriculture, Health, Women and generally on Rural Development. To pitch a story idea or submit a report, please email: editor@ruralreporters.com
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