Today the water sector is a priority in Uganda as emphasised in the country's
Poverty Eradication Action Plan. Ironically Uganda has significant water
resources through its abundance of lakes (see image right) however the rapid
expansion of urban areas together with poor water management has left the
country with a low safe water coverage.
33% of the population
do not have access to safe water and 52% of people are without
sanitation. Infant mortality stands at 130 in 1,000, and 26,000
children under the age of five die every year die from diarrhoeal
diseases. Inevitably this lack of clean water and sanitation has an
effect on children's education in Uganda as well as the overall
productivity of the nation.
Teenage girls in particular often have to stay off school
where there is no running water and in general being unable to wash
hands is a contributory factor in the spread of illnesses such as
One school child in
Uganda explains "Whenever I take that dirty water because we don't
have a borehole the stomach start paining me and I start diarrhoea.
When ever I start diarrhoea I just go back home. I can remain at
home. I cannot come to school. And I get treatment. If I get treatment then I come to school.
Normally my subject I like science because I want to become a nurse. I want to
become a nurse to save people's lives, now if I miss science I cannot perform
well. Makes me to fail the exams. Because the teacher will teach when I'm not
there. If exams come, I don't know their meaning. Then I fail."
Whilst Uganda's efforts to improve its water supply are well intentioned, it
still spends less than 1% of its GDP on water, nearly half as much as its
military expenditure. The reality is, if Uganda is to meet its Millennium
Development Goals for water, it will have to construct 1000 new wells or
boreholes and 30 piped systems every year for the next seven years.
In the meantime for many, particularly in rural areas, its a daily 1-2 km walk
to fetch water from boreholes (right) and when those boreholes dry up during the
dry season or hand pumps break down, they have to reply on swamp water to meet
their daily needs. Part of the problem is simply a lack of funds in what is one
of the world's poorest countries and a weak coordination and management of the
issue at both a national and local level.
However the water problem is compounded by erratic rain
patterns. The end of 2010 to early 2011 saw a drought affecting the area which
caused domestic water shortages affecting agriculture and animal tending with
farmers in some areas losing many of their livestock.