on Um Zayd wa Atheer (Uganda), 21/Feb/2012 12:45, 34 days ago
Water WorksI have thinking a lot about water recently. More accurately I should say that it has been the lack of it that has seriously disturbed me.I'm staying at 35, Okello Road, Labourline, Gulu. It's a pleasant well- portioned house. As it's name suggests, it's on the poorer side of town.The water tank looms large and high on its frame overlooking the house. It doesn't always live up to expectations. Sometimes water gets pumped into this tank and sometimes it doesn't. Usually the dip (if you will excuse the unintended pun) lasts for a day or two. During the last 9 days not a drop of water came down to the house from that tank. We survived by bringing water from outside in 20 litre jerry cans. As this water is only fit for domestic use drinking water was also bought in 5 litre bottles from the friendly Indian shop on the corner. I can just manage to carry 10 litres in one go.I became obsessive about the consumption of this precious water. Half a bowl could be used for bathing, washing the floor and flushing the loo, in that order. Cooking was restricted to minimal preparation and washing up ie the simpler the better and in one pan. Clothes washing had to stop altogether. Every morning I prayed to see water coming from a tap. Today that prayer was answered.Water was also the topic of last week whilst working in one of the villages. A Communications Team from London visited Gulu to see the health challenges of ordinary people. We focused on the causes and prevention of diarrhoea. Of course, in rural villages very few families have their own supply of water. Fetching jerry cans of water from the nearest borehole is part of the twice-daily ritual. Usually this is women's work although you often see children helping too. Once full the jerry cans are carried on the head, as they are too heavy to carry otherwise. A few lucky ones, who own a bicycle, can strap 3 or 4 cans onto the carrier to lighten the journey home. All this seems to be done with amazing cheerfulness. The borehole clearly is place for meeting up with your neighbours and having a gossip.In the village we met William, his 2 wives and his 2 sets of children. Co-wives are common throughout Uganda although it is not always an amicable arrangement. William's 2 families were very accommodating of each other and were a receptive audience to the health talk that the village health volunteers gave. We were stressing the importance of clean water in the prevention of diarrhoea. TIPPY TAP and SODIS were demonstrated, just as they had been in Masindi and the 4 Fs poster again held high to show how diarrhoea is easily spread. (Faeces, Flies Fingers and Food)Although I barely knew William and his families I felt humbled by their interest and concentration. He seemed an intelligent and caring man despite his relative poverty and history of having lived for 20 years in an IDP (Internally Displaced People) Camp. I felt ashamed of my own grumbling about the lack of running water for 9 whole days. Here were people who have never had or nor are likely to have a tap in their house or a flushing toilet. I had the means to buy clean drinking water and containers for storage and carrying domestic water. How blessed we are.