The East African Country of Uganda is already dealing with a long-standing water crisis, but as it opens its schools after the world’s most extended school closure, more water troubles lie ahead. 

While the reopening of schools is good news for many students and their families, schools must meet the government’s requirements to provide clean drinking water for students to reopen. So, in addition to intensifying the country’s water crisis, it’s also created a highly urgent need.

 

The Current, Urgent Situation

Uganda schools reopened in early January 2022 after being fully or partially shut for more than 83 weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the United Nation’s cultural agency, it was the most prolonged school disruption globally, affecting more than 10 million learners.

Meeting the government’s requirements to provide clean drinking water for students has many schools, officials, and organizations scrambling because many school facilities were robbed of equipment while empty. Unfortunately, the thieves’ bounty included the machinery and materials that provided clean water to students. That means that the schools cannot provide clean water without adequate tanks and filter systems.

 

Finding Solutions to Address the Urgent Situation

Thirst Relief and Connect Africa have identified and located equipment to help schools achieve this goal. The equipment includes 25 rainwater harvesting tanks. However, before it can be put into service, the equipment will need to be rehabilitated to replace missing or broken parts. For example, refitting them with waterproof tanks will be necessary, and biosand filters can be reinstalled, after reprocessing the BSF filter media.

 

Why It Matters

Uganda already suffers in various ways due to a lack of clean water. However, the number of people in Uganda without clean water varies depending on the source. 

Clean Water Access

According to the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP)—the United Nations and World Health Organization’s (WHO) mechanism tasked with monitoring water, sanitation, and hygiene progress—19 percent of the Ugandan population relies on unimproved or surface water for their daily needs. As a result, over eight million people drink from sources like streams, ponds, and unprotected hand-dug wells.

Added to that are another 32 percent of the population with “limited” access to clean water, meaning that the water may be safe but requires a journey of more than 30 minutes to collect. Based on that information, the JMP calculates that leaves 21 million people in Uganda without access to clean drinking water.

Poor Sanitation, Hygiene, and Disease

Unequal access to clean water also makes it challenging for Ugandans to have adequate sanitation, which leads to poor hygiene, a cause of many childhood diseases. For example, diarrhea kills 33 children per day in Uganda. 

Uganda has a high under-five mortality rate caused partly by the country’s WASH problem. One in every 22 children do not live to see their fifth birthday, and diarrheal disease is a leading cause of death. 

Further contributing to the sanitation crisis is a lack of hygienic toilets, with many people using buckets and pit latrines without slabs. In addition, six percent of the population practice open defecation, which means that human feces flow into rivers, open wells, and swamps—all sources for drinking water.

​​Early childhood diarrhea is not only deadly; it also contributes to Uganda’s high levels of stunting, which affects the cognitive development and performance of children at school. In school, lack of proper sanitation facilities also leads to high absenteeism rates and dropouts, especially among girls.

 

You Can Help Uganda’s Students Get Back to Learning

Of course, all those repairs cost money. So first, money is needed to pay workers to work on repairs. Then, funds are also needed to purchase supplies for repairs or to purchase new parts. 

Your support can help the Thirst Relief team and its partners ensure that children in Uganda can focus on learning, the best long-term solution to lift families out of poverty in Uganda. In addition, donations will help us repair the equipment to help schools comply with government regulations. Ready to help make a difference?