on Sabrina and Geoff Slide in Kamwenge (Uganda), 25/Sep/2010 12:25, 34 days ago
Last week delegates were meeting in New York to discuss the progress on the Millennium Development Goals that were agreed in 2000. We read in the paper that Uganda has made good progress in reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty, but the poor progress on health still shocks us. We see that 137 children out of every 1000 born here still do not reach their 5th birthday. These figures are for the whole country. In poor, rural areas such as Kamwenge, the death rates are higher. More than 300 people, mostly women and children, die every day from malaria and there are over 80,000 AIDS related deaths registered every year. However the statistic that we find most shocking is that more children die from diarrhoea than anything else. Diarrhoea is caused by poor sanitation and the drinking of unsafe water. The problem sounds simple to solve, but we all have to come to terms with the fact that, at the end of 2010, most people here do not have access to clean safe water.We have been inconvenienced over the last week because our piped water has stopped flowing. Our water comes from a small pumping station on the river Mpanga (about 10 Km from us). The reason for the stoppage is that the pumping station has had its electricity cut off. This is because most people who signed up for this water cannot pay their water bill and so the pumping station owners cannot pay for their electricity. We are fortunate because we can afford to pay a boda boda (motorcycle) driver to go and get us jerry cans of water from a gravity feed water system in another area. We also have a functioning rain-water collection tank. We then filter and boil the water to make it safe. Most people in Kamwenge, however, have to get all their water from the swamp or dirty shallow wells and cannot afford to filter and boil, so children continue to suffer from diarrhoea and continue to die.In the 17 months that we have been here, we have worked hard to improve sanitation and hygiene in schools, have shown teachers how to make basic hand-washing facilities and stressed the importance of boiling water for drinking. However the challenge remains that until access to safe water improves for all, the long term improvment to health will be minimal.