ENHANCING COMMUNITY QUALITY OF LIFE:
Are we doing enough for our communities?
Story by; Lutakome Benon, KYCTV-Lubaga Region:
For many of our communities, children learn about personal hygiene and basic sanitation knowledge at the youngest age as a practice passed on by their elders but in the largest parts of the world especially in the slum communities, knowledge on how to prevent illness and maintain hygiene is not widely known or taught. This is perhaps attributable to the setting/nature of slums that makes people fail to practice these health activities even when they wish to do so.
Community hygiene is a fundamental social practice as traced back in the earliest civilization. Since our elders recognized that without good health/sanitation practices, as far as it dates back, we cannot let off the hook, we need to continue to promote this theme of good sanitation to ensure that our children and communities survive the catastrophes that might arise from poor health practices needs.
Collaborative efforts that target to bring proper health and prevention of diseases to a group of people living and working together in communities, is what I refer to as community sanitation WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene). It is a remarkable approach to improved water and sanitation aimed at improving personal and community hygiene. Personal in sense that it promotes behavioral change in people to voluntarily adopt better hygienic practices that will improve their collective health. Amongst the cores of these communal hygiene practices done in by different social group to embark hygiene include;
- Use toilets to keep faces separate from humans
- Wash hands with soap and water
- Sweeping the homes to keep rubbish off the floor to prevent environment contamination
- Keeping livestock separate from humans
- Washing bodies regularly to maintain personal cleanliness
- Keeping dishes and utensils clean and off the ground. As the day today SOPs set in place by different governments to fight the world pandemic Covid 19 in different social groups to manage the spread of the virus.
However, as communities begin to grow, most of these core practices start to fade out slowly by slowly because people seem to bother less about their community and personal hygiene but rather concentrate more on commercial and individual gains. Lubaga region is one of the regions that make up Kampala city and like other regions it has specific parts characterized deplorable infrastructures hence making it hard to have proper sanitation practices. which is comprised of a parish known as Kabowa where Wankulukuku community is found.
Kabowa is one parish in the region where Wankulukuku community is one of the many slum communities that encompasses the Parish, with a high population characterized with different people of various social practices. The area for long has lacked safe clean water, public toilets and proper gazette of garbage collections points. This situation has exposed communities to a number of challenges including the recent one that saw an outbreak of cholera resulting from the improper health practices in the community.
The intensity of this problem especially amongst the community of Wankulukuku market vendors fostered them to seek for means of uplifting their own conditions. In the nearby abattoir and the market vendors that accommodates a significant number of people and playground, shared only a small sanitation facility that was in a deteriorate state. This prevailing concern, gave room to the birth of Wankulukuku sanitation unit. With the support from ACTogether Uganda and National slum dwellers of Lubaga, this was possible through settlement and Municipal Development forums that engaged various stakeholders including those from the technical wing of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).
Change doesn’t depend only on the will of the individuals or community; it needs trial and tested methods to find vest solutions of which this all had counter faced the entire community through the previous health problems a raising in their own communities. The established of the sanitation facility alone was not enough to encourage people to develop proper sanitary practices, it has also taken some of national slum dwellers federation of Uganda (NSDFU) groups especially key members, to set change in motion.
Mrs. Namatovu Margret the chairperson of Kwagalana saving group for example, has taken on the mantle to encourage group members and community members to keep the fight alive in the communities and she had a lot to testify on this sanitation initiative.
“As women, with this kind of sanitation, we no longer afraid of our hygiene since the sanitation unit was put in place.it is cleaner than the one we previously had. Most women were afraid of the previous facility, because it posed great risk and as a result many resorted to bushes. But now, we feel safe that our children and women can access this new facility without fear of any kind like it was in the previous”. she said.
Community members have stressed that the construction this facility, has reduced the rates of open defecations and has promoted good sanitation behaviors in general. With the hall on top, we as poor women who come with our children at work can use this facility as a learning center for them and we feel safe and secure that they are close to us for whole day than leaving them at home with no one to take care of them.
Despite the initiatives that took place in the elevation of this unit. Wankulukuku sanitation facility may not be a complete solution for all hygiene practice for this entire population but it’s a genesis of solutions to the community sanitation concerns that can be addressed on if collective and deliberate efforts from governments and other stakeholders are made.