Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Tens of thousands to join Ugandan Walk for Water

Doreen Kabasindi Wandera is the Executive Director of the Uganda Water and Sanitation NGO Network (UWASNET).  Here she talks about why political action on water and sanitation is so desperately needed in her country and her plans for the World Walks for Water event.

Uganda has a population of over 33 million people. Nearly 50% of this population do not have easy access to clean water. Typical scenes in Uganda’s urban settings are of men carrying water on bicycles and motorcycles, while those in the rural population, which is the majority, cannot afford bicycles and have to walk. In a typical Ugandan village, women and children start water journeys as early 6.00am, so as to have time to catch up with other household chores. It is also a known fact that most women and girls trek journeys as long as 6-10 kilometres and queue for several hours at a water source in order to access safe water for domestic use. This in turn has affected girl's education since they miss out on school. Those who are lucky enough to make it to school at all often arrive too late to catch up with their male counterparts. This has contributed to a disproportionately high school drop out rate for girls and increased illiteracy levels among the female population. The increased work load for women who are already burdened with both reproductive and productive roles cannot be ignored.

There has been a steady decline in resource allocation to the water and environmental sectors, for example in 2004/5 the budget allocation was 4.9% of the national annual budget but this dropped to 2.4% in 2008/09. This has significantly weakened the sector’s ability to effectively address the needs of Uganda’s growing population hence the foreseen failure to meet the 2015 world targets if the situation is not addressed. It is also important to note that water and sanitation are not among the priority sectors for the National Development Plan. Of equal primary concern are inadequate good governance practices affecting equity in Water and Sanitary Hygiene (WASH) service delivery, affordability and meaningful public participation in decision making on matters of WASH at various levels of planning. There is a lack of awareness about WASH as a human right, hence the public is not empowered enough to compel the government to respond to their WASH needs.

Youth in Masaka town collecting water on bicycles 

It is against this background that Civil Society Organizations under their umbrella network of the Uganda Water Sanitation NGO Network (UWASNET) has joined the rest of the world to Walk for Water. This event will:

· Raise awareness about the water and sanitation crisis in the country that is slowly and silently hurting our population.

· Demand action from politicians who have recently been elected on promises of improvements in access to safe water and sanitation to their electorates

· Demand that the government make WASH a priority in its plans for the financial year 2011/2012.

7 districts have registered to participate in the World Walks for Water event. The walk will end in the capital city of Kampala, in the urban area of Kawempe Division which is a densely populated area where Cholera often out breaks and floods are common. Here the CSO will present their Manifesto to the country's leaders, most of whom have confirmed participation in the event. Other activities organised will include television talk shows featuring top government officials.

Children walk for water every day
Girls in particular miss out on school

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