Water and People in rural Uganda

15 10 2010

“Safe and clean drinking water is a human right”, declares the United Nations. However, its such a shame that to many rural communities around the world, this “human right” is still a “myth”. Many communities don’t have access to safe and clean drinking water.

Personally, I have a very special interest in observing the way people access water in rural Uganda. Often I carry a digital camera, to take photos on water access.

From my observation, I have noticed that many rural areas have hardships in accessing water sources – they often have to walk more than one kilometer to find the nearest water source. Often these are swamps, lakes, rivers, streams, or even mere trickles of water. A few rural communities have access to boreholes while others have managed to dig up water wells to enable free access to water.

During my travels to several parts of Uganda, I have noticed that women and children are the ones in charge of fetching water in their homes. Often, I would see women, girls and boys in both small and big groups carrying jerrycans of water on their heads and sometimes on a bicycle.

Even though many of these communities will not complain openly, they often face hardships. Hardships range from the long-inconveniencing distances that people have to walk to access water to threats of infections from water born diseases like typhoid, dysentery and bilharzia that people are prone to due to dirty and unsafe water. Rural people live with and suffer from, but know little about these threats because they are not informed but cases of typhoid, dysentery and bilharzia are very common in rural areas and the biggest cause is drinking dirty water.

I believe our communities need more information on improved water access, their rights and health information.


Communal Water Access - Apac District, Nothern Uganda

In the cities like Kampala, the story of water access is really saddening. People have to depend on broken water pipes to access free water. Others will look for streams on the suburbs of the cities where they live because many people still live in poverty and them, clean water (which they have to pay for) would not be very helpful when they don’t even have food. Often people choose to spend more on food and improvise with water by looking for free water sources in the neighborhoods. Even though the many urban poor don’t have to walk kilometers to access free water, they are at the same risk of catching diseases from this free-unsafe water.

Now the question remains, what can the United Nations do to ensure that even the rural-poor communities of the world get improved access to clean and safe drinking water?

At the same risk of catching diseases from this openly available water– so easy to reach in the short term, yet so costly in terms of health after all.