By David Lumu
In 2002, there were 5m Ugandans without a toilet facility
New findings about toilet coverage in the country have rekindled old questions about the need to formulate a law that makes it compulsory for every household to have a toilet facility. Although the overall toilet coverage in the country has increased, recent national population and housing census figures released by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), show that 8% of the population stays in households with no toilet facilities.
“Overall eight percent of households did not have a toilet facility,” the report states. This (8%) represents 2.7m Ugandans out of the 34.6m people in the country.
According to Sarah Opendi, the State Minister for Primary Health Care, there is a need to amend the Public Health Act to incorporate a provision that lays out punitive measures for people living in households without toilets or pit-latrines.
“One of the things that we must do urgently is to review the Public Health Act to put punitive measures for people without latrines and toilets,” she said.
Opendi told New Vision that the rationale behind the push for a categorical punitive provision in the Public Health Act is to weed out double-standards exhibited within the various Local Government hierarchies that primarily have to enforce latrine and toilet coverage within their areas.
The Local Governments have a duty to make by-laws that enforce and ensure that there is 100% toilet and latrine coverage in their areas. But these politicians, especially district chairpersons fear to take action against their voters. In the end, nothing is done. That is why we need a provision in the Act,” she said.
Yet despite the 2.7m Ugandans, who are lagging behind, the census report indicates that toilet coverage has improved generally with 34% of the households using improved toilet facilities.
According to the report, in 2002, there were 15% (5m) Ugandans without a toilet facchoility.
Mush as the number of people without toilet facilities has reduced from 5m people to 8m, experts argue, that the trend is not good at all for the country.
Dr. Asuman Lukwago, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health said that the dangers of having people, who reside in households without any toilet facility, creates a haven for deadly diseases such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhea.
“There is no reason why someone would not have a toilet facility at his or her home. Although the census report is giving us an improved picture, we think that the situation is still bad. We cannot have 2m people without toilets. There is some laxity that must be addressed, especially at Local Government level and health inspection-wise,” he said.
Mapping out areas where there no or limited toilet coverage, Lukwago said that in Karamoja, parts of eastern Uganda, Kampala slams such as Bwaise and Katanga, people engage in open-defecation whenever nature calls.
For instance in Bwaise, Lukwago said, people defecate in polythene bags and throw the waste into roads.
“During the rainy season, this fecal material is washed into the various water-trapping gullies. In the evening, children play in this water laced with fecal material. This directly exposes these children to typhoid and cholera,” he said.
Lukwago added: “So, as Ministry of Health our guideline to local health inspectors is that every house should have a pit latrine. So to have 2m people without a toilet facility is not good as far as public health is concerned.”