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Investment in local enterprise crucial to tackling poor sanitation

February 20, 2014

Over the last two days I have been startled by Uganda sanitation statistics and how the country loses a lot of money and time to treatment of diseases, which are preventable. One person suggested that may be it is a matter of people in finance not being able to make the link that prevention costs us way less than treatment dedicated to 75% of disease burden from poor sanitation.

With about a thousand days to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) deadline, some 780 million people will still not have access to improved water supply and many countries including Uganda are going to miss the targets for sanitation. About 2.5 billion people worldwide still do not have access to improved sanitation. About 1 billion people still defecate in the open and Uganda contributes 3.2 million to this figure.

Girl fetching water in Kampala photo by Andy Kristian

Girl fetching water in Kampala photo by Andy Kristian

Governments haven’t paid enough attention to the impact of poor sanitation on lives but our national economies or if they do, just they haven’t set it as a priority area in improving human development indicators. Many NGOs in the past have largely concentrated on hand out, which have failed to bring sustainable solutions to poor sanitation.

You shouldn’t be shocked to meet volunteer from a western country working in rural Uganda to dig latrines for people. The latrines they build aren’t like high-tech toilets that no Ugandan knows about, they are just a bit improved latrines that with little support, local people could build for themselves.

The failure of such handouts to deliver sanitation solutions has highlighted at this unclogging blockages conference in Kampala. One participant told us how NGOs had built latrines for people in Kampala slums but majority were using these latrines to keep their animals.

It true that where people are not reached by public sanitation services, they will turn to self-supply, alternative sources and open defecation. Looking at sanitation as business worth investing will give more responsibility to the communities and makes a lasting solution.

Michael Momanyi, from the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) by the World Bank, whose mission is to increase access of the poor to water and sanitation, did present myths that have to be challenged to bring market-driven solutions in the sanitation sector.

“Millions of people rely on hundreds of thousands of firms – mostly small and micro firms – for their sanitation and water needs, under this business area what we are trying to learn is whether societal problems can be addressed by business. We are particularly interested in the domestic private sector.”

It is important in developing countries like Uganda to support local entrepreneurs whether it is in water supply business or improving hygiene.

WSP surveyed over 100 enterprises that serve households directly and challenges the misconception that the reason the sanitation is small.

“The paradox is that sanitation is a large market dominated by small players who are constrained by capital, technology and in geographical reach. Even when money is not an issue, sanitation is a low expenditure priority.”

The survey for instance found that many non-poor rural households in Tanzania did not have access to improved sanitation facilities even if they could afford them.

“The study finds that the most basic improved sanitation facility would comprise only 3-4% of the annual incomes of the poor. We find that the poor spend much more than that in the annual use of their mobile phones than it would to own a sanitation facility that would last them 10 years.”

An interesting case study from Nkhotakota Sanitation Village Savings and Loan Banks in Malawi brought a new aspect on financing sanitation.
Roy Khonyongwa from the Hygiene Village Project, a local Non-Governmental organization in Malawi, told the meeting how they are incorporating sanitation as part of the micro-finance.

This local Malawian NGO helped set up village savings and loan banks to link sanitation entrepreneurs and households to access loans for sanitation facilities.

“The purpose of Village banks is to enable communities learn to save the little they have and be able to meet household needs including money for constructing or improving a latrine. Members are obliged to get sanitation loans from the contributions and the loan is paid back at the end of the week or month at an agreed affordable interest.” Said Khonyongwa. is also using micro finance to support sanitation efforts under their water credit program. WaterCredit puts micro finance tools to work in the water, sanitation and hygiene by connecting financial institutions to communities in need of clean water and toilets. The small loans are made to individuals and households and the program is also being implemented in Uganda.

The role of micro finance institutions in developing communities in countries like Uganda where capital is not easily available has been tremendous. Just like families look at getting loans for education and running businesses, micro financing is one way to address sanitation needs. But this can only work well if communities are made aware of the impact of poor sanitation on the households in the long run.

Uganda: Shit is not just a poor man’s problem

February 19, 2014

A while back, a friend returned from a funeral of one the big men from his village. The man had served as a minister in one of past regimes and had generally lived a good life. My friend’s story from the big man’s funeral wasn’t about the pomp, which many often try to put up even at funerals in our rich world. It was about one shocking aspect of the man’s life. This big man had lived in Kampala and kept his village home like most Ugandans do but to the surprise of my friend this big man’s village home where he was buried had had no toilet/latrine facilities. The only standing structure had been quickly erected at the news of his passing.

I was reminded of this story at a sanitation meeting that is taking place in Kampala, which brought participants from 21 countries.
When I first saw the theme “unclogging the blockages” I wondered if we had even anything blocked in the first place. Contrary to held myths that open-air defecation is done by poor people, this story of the big man shows that shit matters in Uganda are everyone’s problem.

Read more…

Is Uganda deployment in South Sudan more than just a citizen evacuation mission?

December 21, 2013

It started on Sunday, December 15. I woke up on Monday to the news of a ‘failed coup’ in South Sudan that now many believe never was. Next day, President Salva Kiir wore his military fatigue as if to reinforce that idea that this will be solved militarily- in a country where he has yet to bridge the political and ethnic divides. The fight that started as squabbles between members of the SPLM exposed divisions – both political and ethnic- in the worst way possible.

A week later, UN agencies put the number of dead at 500 and most of them civilians. Many graphic stories are going around about how people were hunted down in their homes and hacked and killed in some of the cruelest ways imagined, just because they belonged to a different tribe.

For many months there was consistent talk of a possible coup with Kiir dismissing an entire cabinet. This was a man in a paranoia mode. From then on nothing has been the same. Many people I know in South Sudan believe Kiir is been putting a lid on the party, the government and the army and not allowing dissenting voices or a resemblance of democracy internally. What appeared a political rift at the top of the party this this week degenerated to fight for power along ethnic lines.

Kiir is reading from the same script that many post-independence African countries leaders used. Coming from Uganda have seen enough and always civilians will bear the brunt of the rigidity of these leaders.

As most countries started evacuation citizens, in Uganda were half hooked to South Sudan, the other half on our parliament, which has been busy making sexist laws that include banning mini-skirts and the infamous Anti-homosexuality law. Somewhere in the middle of this confusion, President Museveni sneaked us into the South Sudan turmoil, reports say at the invitation of Kiir’s government. Like many military deployments, only a few people in this country decide where and when our soldiers will be taken.

Museveni is well known for his historic support of the SPLM/A struggle – in fact top SPLM figures lived freely in Uganda as the independence struggle went on.
But this time it is not a struggle for independence; it is a struggle for good governance. And whatever interests we may be trying to protect, in the end we must give South Sudan- two year old country- its chance to shape it’s destiny.

I am a skeptic when it comes to lone interventions by any country but many reports show that Museveni may not be acting alone entering the South Sudan conflict.

“Our mission is to evacuate injured and stranded Ugandans. It is a bilateral arrangement with the government of South Sudan”, Paddy Ankunda, spokesman of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) told Sudan Tribune on Friday.

Later there were reports Uganda has secured Juba airport. Today reports say Ugandan troops have been sighted in Bor- Jonglei. One tweet – unconfirmed- suggested a Ugandan military plane had been brought down.

In a tweet, the Chief of Defense Forces in Uganda Gen. Katumba Wamala refuted the claims of Uganda troops presence beyond Juba, insisting theirs was an a simple evacuation mission.

Another tweet quoting the South Sudan military spokesperson refuted the reports but as we know the first casualty of war is truth so we wait to see.

Army spokesperson Ankunda said Ugandan soldiers will remain in South Sudan for “as long as the South Sudan government is still there for us (the UPDF)”.

Gen. Wamala was vague about when Ugandan troops will finish this evacuation and come back.

The vagueness regarding the mission has increased rumours that UPDF is there support Kiir. And if indeed Museveni takes us to Juba and beyond to save Salva Kiir- who has had chances to negotiate with rivals but chose not- I am afraid may affect what kind of settlement will be reached.

Gen. Wamala sort of wrapped this mission around humanitarian grounds – that peace in South Sudan means peace in Uganda -but we have a UN mission in South Sudan whose mandate should must be to protect civilians.

The IGAD delegation led by Ethiopia ,of which Uganda is part, are already in talks with Kiir and Dr. Reik Machar to come to the negotiations. And I wonder how this deployment – if it is has gone beyond citizen evacuation, will be viewed by the other parties – rebels. Meanwhile reports of the violence and the devastation are still coming in.

People seeking refugee in UN bases are being surrounded by militia and some peacekeepers have also been killed. The last thing South Sudan needs is more military action from a neighboring country.

A good friend from South Sudan wrote to me:

“It is such a shame as innocent (Ugandan) soldiers will die fighting for a cause they don’t even know…what is happening now in south Sudan is a fight between dictatorship and democracy…we know who will win in the end.”

Some tweets from Ugandans on South Sudan deployment:

December 20, 2013

It is been tough months, the kind of tough I wouldn’t easily put down on paper! I am sure the last two weeks you read and re-read articles about life and the passing of former South African president and anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela. I quietly read a lot too.

I wrote this small piece for Radio Netherlands Worldwide about what I thought of his life and legacy. I hope you still find it interesting.

I was barely 11 years old when Mandela was released from 27 years of inhuman incarceration. At home we didn’t have a TV and I bet that my day – that great day in history – went on like any other day of an 11 year old in rural Uganda.

Many years later, I would read of President Mandela saying: “The curious beauty about African music is that it uplifts even as it tells a sad story.” It reminded me of my childhood and how music introduced many of us to the apartheid and the evils in South Africa. The songs of Miriam Makeba and Lucky Dube would be danced to in my village, but they also sparked passionate discussions.

Read more…

Beauty remains amidst struggle; Lives of Congolese refugees in Uganda

October 28, 2013

For two weeks in October, I worked with a research team from Isis-WICCE to document Congolese women refugees experiences of war. The research is supposed to inform various political efforts to end the conflicts in Eastern DRC.
We travelled to Bubukwanga, a refugee transit camp in Bundibugyo district at the border with DRC. At the time of the visit, the centre was still receiving about 250 refugee arrivals per week.

Most of these refugees fled back in July when rebels reported to be ADF-NALU took over Kamango, a town about 10 KM from the Ugandan border.It is Beni district, North KivU Province. Some reports in Uganda media questioned if ADF was really behind the attacks.

Unlike other attacks in North Kivu, many reported the rebels attack on Kamango was more of a tactic to force displacement. One woman told me “they came to my house and said i should go to a refugee camp in Uganda because they needed this place as their playing field.

There was no report of sexual violence, the attack took many by surprise, although there had been some abductions and killings in the area for sometime.

Many reported that rebels had carried out killings especially of people who had either refused to leave or tried to go back after the day of the attack. The chief of the area was killed in the first hours of the attack, a tactic to instill fear in the population to force them out.

In Kyangwali refugee settlement where more than 5000 had been relocated, beginning a new life in a new place is tough. I spent more time at Kyangwali and got many images but would like to share these. For many elderly people, this was their 3rd time to be displaced into Uganda. In fact some of them narrated their stories in Rutoro/Runyakira.

A Congolese man carrying their daughter was walking with his wife on the way from the garden. I asked for a photo and this is what i got. This is a very rare sight in Uganda where generally gender roles can be well defined. Many men hardly carry their children.

A Congolese man carrying their daughter was walking with his wife on the way from the garden. I asked for a photo and this is what i got. This is a very rare sight in Uganda where generally gender roles can be well defined. Many men hardly carry their children.

Read more…

Rape and the culture of victim blaming in Uganda

October 16, 2013

This blog post is part of the Blog Action Day and this year’s theme is human rights.



At the end of September, a Youth Minister in Uganda Kibuule went on record to say a woman who is indecently dressed and is raped should face charges and the perpetrator should be set free. Journalists recorded his voice at a function in the western district of Ntungamo and the next day newspapers carried the story.

Kibuule ran to radio stations claiming he was misquoted, he even opened a twitter account to dig into the debate where I and many Ugandans had contributed condemning this rape apologist.

More than 20 girls are raped everyday in Uganda but the silence continues. Most of these rapes are committed by close friends and relatives. But for people like Kibuule, the obsession with women’s bodies blind them from the reality.

They blame clothes not perpetrators. Like many other instances in Uganda, a minister like Kibuule can abuse women and spread hate speech and incite violence and get away with it.

Not much time has passed and we are hearing a harrowing account of 23 year old girl who was gang-raped by Pakistani men.

There’s a public outcry and like in many other sexual violence cases it has emerged the file initially at Kira road police was mismanaged. This girl is living in fear because those who gang-raped have threatened to hurt her more or even kill her. But this is not new, many rape cases are never prosecuted to the end.

It was only last year the Police Form 3 was amended for law enforcement agencies to record medical practitioner’s evidence in cases of sexual violence including rape and defilement.

Before then only Police surgeons could use this form and be acceptable before the courts of law. You would find long lines at the surgeon’s office and there was no privacy. I visited two surgeons while doing a story back in 2008 and it was clear to any one who entered which cases the victims were there to report. A man with her daughter in tears would easily tell you how she’s been raped and many women seated in silence as they waiting for this one man to examine them.

More than the justice system we have a culture of silence and victim blaming. If a woman or girl is raped we have first find out if she didn’t ‘deserve’ it. We need a society that can support rape victims to be able to speak out with out rape apologists like Kibuule threatening them. If we have ministers who are on the side of rapists and actually advocating for rapist’s rights to rape we are far from the morality that we all like to go preaching about.

Like Norbert Mao said, we need to go beyond public outcries whenever cases like these come out.

First, parliament should pass the Sexual Offences Bill. This law should have provisions that protects rape victims from traumatic court sessions, creates a well facilitated sexual assault police unit, creates sexual assault response centres in our health centres to deal with the risk of HIV infection and provide post exposure prophylaxis, and which emphasises protection of child victims of rape. Second, there should be a public education campaign targeting men to sensitize them about the difference between consensual sex and rape. That’s the only way men will understand that women have a right to say no to sex. Is is also the only way we can build a society that can groom men who respect women. Third, we need more men especially those in government and parliament to take a courageous stand to end sexual violence.

Kibuule had some backing and it was heart wrenching to see young men posting on twitter in support of him. They seemed ignorant of the fact that what is decent to them can be indecent to another.
That we have laws and that under no circumstance can one excuse rape.

Those horrified by the Pakistanis who gang-raped this young woman who was only out to look for better employment, must know the link between statements like Kibuule’s and the perpetuation of rape and the silence that follows this crime.
Without structures to cater for such victims even in the face of persistent threats we can’t hide from the fact that our leaders would rather obsess about women’s bodies than put measures to ensure women are protected. If they weren’t obsessed we would see more laws that enhance women’s equality and protection passed. We wouldnt spent time speaking about the length of a skirt when more horror is delivered to our door steps every day!

A peace dialogue in Karamoja

October 3, 2013

Last week, shortly after the International Peace Day I went to Moroto with Karamoja Cluster Project, My graduate school University for Peace is starting.
At an intra-community dialogue, held under a tree, between Tepeth elders on resolving the cross-border conflict between the Tepeth in Uganda (in alliance with the Pokot) and the Turkana in Kenya, i took these photos in Kalemungole village, Tapac subcounty.

Peace in Karamoja is fragile. After decades of armed violence through cattle rustling, Uganda government enforced disarmament. But Kenya instead decided to arm their warriors. This dialogue showed a change in the communities and their embrace for protection from armed forces instead of arming themselves.

One of the most important issues raised at a dialogue where the LCV was present was where is the 3% the communities is supposed to get from Marble mining? Karamoja also has gold and other issues arising are land rumored being grab. Most Karamojongs lost cattle and struggle but not much is known about gold mining and trade from Karamoja. Not that I intend to scare but there’s a mega road construction project by Chinese and rumours were rife that the Chinese are trying to get a stake in Gold. Am ignorant of the gold mining venture in this part of the country just like most Ugandans but i thought these issues regarding extractive industries need to be given attention and coverage to put such rumours to death.

I captured these images as the dialogue went on.

Elderly woman at the dialogue

Elderly woman at the dialogue




Soldiers listen in during the dialogue

Soldiers listen in during the dialogue





Found this kid with mum, in earlier photo he showed great interest in the camera, i bet he will be a journo some day

Found this kid with mum, in earlier photo he showed great interest in the camera, i bet he will be a journo some day

Never seen such big guns with Police but this really shows the fragility of peace in Karamoja.

Never seen such big guns with Police but this really shows the fragility of peace in Karamoja.


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