Jane talks about the wonderful people she met and the brilliant work being done in Uganda.
The valley looks like paradise on earth. Verdant hills with rich-red soil produce year-round vegetables and a riot of hothouse flowers proliferate in shade of flame. But hidden in the folds of spectacular hill and dale scenery is a remote community of 20,000 people.
This is the far-flung Nyamasizizi district of south west Uganda, only reachable via miles of narrow, rocky and dangerous track with a heart-stopping drop on one side. It’s where Just a Drop, working with partners AES, continues to supply clean water via a simple gravity system to taps dotted across the valley.
When Nyamasizizi Primary School received clean water for the first time it was a joyous occasion indeed. Teacher Gideon Batureine recalls that time as if it was yesterday. There was elation, celebration; a sense that all their dreams had come true.
In the past, children frequently fell ill. Now they no longer suffer – and sometimes die – of horrific water-borne diseases. In many cases, dehydration is the ultimate killer.
Then disaster struck. The clean water that had so easily flowed before from taps suddenly dried up.
Once more children were back to carrying containers and regularly breaking from lessons to trudge to and fro, fetching dirty water from the contaminat
ed pond at the edge of the grounds. The school was back to square one and the health of the pupils began to slide. It took a month to discover why.
“A farmer nearby who was probably desperate for water himself cut the pipe to use on his own land,” said Gideon “thank goodness the water supply has been restored. Inevitably this kind of thing happens when water is so precious.”
Miriam has devoted her life to giving Ugandan women a voice, starting with the most basic and precious necessity of all – clean water. As Project Manager of Kintuntu Women’s Association (KWA), Miriam Nalwoga fights alongside Just a Drop to change the lives of Ugandan women. It’s scary, brutal and frequently overwhelming.
Former lawyer Miriam gave up the profession because in her words “she was fed up” with corruption within the law. She quickly discovered that little was being done to help the appalling plight of thousands of Ugandan women: fetching clean water in ridiculously heavy 20-litre containers twice a day, pounding, grinding, cleaning, farming, trading, washing, cleaning, gathering firewood, cooking over an open fire and looking after their children. And on top of that more than an estimated 60% of Ugandan experience domestic violence during their lifetime.
Less than one per cent of the population have access to clean water in their homes and it’s the women who shoulder the responsibility of trying to keep the family alive. According to the World Health Organisation, Ugandan women have an average life expectancy of 57 years with almost half married by the age of 18. Approximately 6,000 women die every year during childbirth, most having their baby without a doctor or nurse and often without clean water close by.
Col. Mike Reynolds, Just a Drop’s Senior Project Officer who collaborates with KWA, believes there is a glimmer of hope saying “Clean water is key in the struggle to change and empower women in Uganda.”
70 year old Nama Iwa Specioza exudes a remarkable zest for life. “This is proper luxury!” she declares with a smile that lights up her face. She is the first recipient of a new type of larger, more modern water harvester tank, situated conveniently by the doorway of her little hut, as well as a block of two latrines located at the back of the house. This installation is another part of our project with KWA. The aim is to provide clean water and sanitation close to the homes of the elderly who cannot trek half a kilometre to a protected water source.
Nama Iwa’s story is one filled with great sadness. She lost an eye through infection when she was still quite young and found herself helpless again and again as eight of her ten children died of AIDs. However she refuses to give in to the kind of desolation and hopelessness that would be easy to understand under such circumstances.
“I am so grateful for what has been done for me” she says while vigorously shaking our hands. But then unexpectedly, her delight spills over into action and she begins to dance with joy!
Five elderly residents have been made custodians of the water tanks and latrine blocks. They are responsible for ensuring they are well looked after, particularly when being used by the rest of the community. Nama Iwa proudly shows us her latrine block which is spotlessly clean.
To find out more about our work in Uganda please click here .