How a community led initiative improved water access in Arua region:

Story by: Matusi Laura KYCTV- Arua.

Water is one of life’s most fundamental needs, and it is unavoidable in daily living. This is because it serves a variety of objectives to human life, which is a fundamental human right recognized globally. Despite the world’s extraordinary progress in all sectors especially in science and technology, majority of people face water scarcity especially in urban settlements.  

In Uganda, the water crisis means that majority of people must travel more than 30 minutes to obtain safe drinking water. This means that people’s inability to work, maintain the household, and care for their children is hampered by the time they spend on water provision This is also linked to the perils of walking great distances to gather water, particularly for girls, being raped along the way, being kidnapped, and being sexually harassed, all of which can lead to early child pregnancy. Arua is one of the locations that has regular dry seasons, and cases like this have become extremely prevalent in the community, especially among those who have dropped out of high school.  

The region for long time has had one operable public stand pipe tap per ward, with none in some wards, making it impossible to serve the municipality’s extraordinarily large population. In order to find a long-term solution, the community embarked on a search despite several interventions from other parties, which were all in vain because no solution was forthcoming.

The movement of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda Arua region which is also comprised of the slum dwellers, joined the rest of the community in profiling, mapping and enumeration activities in the various informal settlements. Several issues affecting people in the settlements were identified during this process, including poor housing, poor access roads, poor lighting systems, and a lack of clean water supply.

Data dissemination was carried out after data verification, as the shortage of clean water supply became the most critical issue that needed to be addressed. This was particularly clear in the data obtained, as a 20-liter jerrycan cost 500/= in the dry season, and at times 1000/=. Furthermore, there were numerous obstacles involved with this, including child labor, driving long distances of up to 3 kilometers in search of water, expensive water prices, and even sleeping at water points at night due to long queues.

With the help of the network coordinators, the project of getting clean piped water was realised in 2012. Regional leaders engaged in a series of talks with community members, and the project of getting clean piped water became a reality in 2012. During these conversations, they discovered that the overcrowded parts of Kenya ward and Oli D of Tanganyika ward were having difficulty accessing clean water. Two water units were supplied to Kenya ward, while the remainder were distributed throughout the settlements.

Today, the Arua region water project includes a number of water units located throughout the city’s core division and in various wards. With the exception of Kenya ward, which received two units, every network was given at least one unit. This was due to the fact that it had the largest population yet the least amount of water coverage.

The community-driven initiative achieved even more benefits when community members led by the Arua Federation addressed the regional manager of the National Water and Sewerage Cooperation to set a steady water price and jerrycan of water was fixed at 100/= as a result of the negotiations, which is affordable to slum inhabitants. Although the original intention was to build 12 water units, the limited resources only allowed for the construction of six, which were lifesaving. the Arua Region, believe that the remaining units will be completed within a few years.

Since the construction of these water units, there has been easy access to clean piped water because people no longer have to go long distances in search of water, and I can confidently state that there are no longer any sleepovers at water sources owing to long lines.  For the past nine years, the price of water has remained consistent, while incidents of school dropout as a result of sexual harassment have decreased.

Published by actogetheruganda

ACTogether Uganda was established in 2006 as an independent Ugandan organisation affiliated to the International network of Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI). It is registered as an NGO in Uganda and aspires to have fair and inclusive Ugandan cities with united and empowered urban poor communities, who have the capacity to voice, promote and effectively negotiate for their collective interests and priorities.

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