Unclogging Uganda's rural sanitation crisis
Waterborne diseases are rampant in E. African country riven by corruption, but local approaches may offer one solution
August 28, 2014 5:00AM ET
by Sam Loewenberg
WALUMBE, Uganda — On the beach in this fishing village nestled on the shores of Lake Victoria, a rickety sign reads, “Bathing, defecating or urinating in the water: fine 20,000 [Ugandan shillings]” — about $7.80, a week’s wages. The sign does not seem to be much of a deterrent, however. Just a few meters away, dozens of people go about their daily business in the lake — children splash, women fill up plastic canisters, a man washes a motorcycle. Water is at the center of life here.
But water is also a source of disease. A stone’s throw from where the village’s residents wash and gather water, bobbing green reeds line the shore. This semiprivate area serves as a toilet for many of the villagers. The result is that waterborne diseases, including diarrhea, scabies, trachoma and schistosomiasis, abound. In fact, in the local language, the name “Walumbe” means death, as the area was once plagued by tsetse flies carrying sleeping sickness.
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