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.
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.