Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink

After two months here, I think the thing that I still find most astounding in Uganda is that, depsite the amount it rains, there is a huge lack of ready access to clean water.

Mukono is a large town, there is access to piped water supplied by the council on some streets, but very few people use it due to the expense. Even the 'apartment' where I live has no running water (and believe me, the standard of accommodation where I am is much better than the houses most people in the community live in).

The water I use is collected from a rainwater tank at the bottom of the apartment complex (I live on the third floor). While the distance it has to carried is much less than most people face, it still means no running water. All water is carried and stored in jerry cans. There is no shower, no sink. Plastic buckets serve as the shower, the kitchen sink and the washing machine.

For me personally no running water isn't a hardship. My water is collected for me. A bucket shower is pretty effective and I have got used to traipsing outside to the pit toilet.

But I can't help think of all the people who have to walk to collect water and the difficulties water collection creates.

1. It can be a long way to walk.  The well that the school that I volunteered at uses is 1km from school.  The distance can be much greater.

2. It takes a long time.  In addition to the walk to the well. there is often a queue before the water can be collected (often hours long due to the demand placed on individual wells and bore holes). Water collection can literally take hours out of the day. It is no wonder that it takes so long for things to happen here in Uganda. Productivity is severely hampered by everyday tasks.

3. In many places the water can be very poor quality.  The murky water in the photo below gives an indication.

4. It is dangerous.  How you might ask? Well often bore holes and wells are at the bottom of valleys surrounded by bush (as this is where the water source is).  Given collection generally has to occur outside school/work hours it is often dark (remember, school doesn't finish until 5.30pm and it gets dark around 6.30pm).  Water collection is a real danger for children targeted for child sacrifice.  Women also get raped on occasion when walking in the dark to collect water.

So, when the water pressure in your shower isn't quite what you hoped today, give a thought for those who don't even have the luxury of running water.
This is one water hole I visited that people collect their water from.
The water stored where I live.
The shower/washing machine.

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