Uganda: Red Cross launches water project in war-affected districts

Report
from Uganda Red Cross
Published on 17 Mar 2008
Uganda Red Cross Society with financial support from the German government through the German Red Cross has launched a water and sanitation project worth 400,000 euros in Oyam district to uplift the lives of vulnerable people after 20 years of the Lord's Resistance Army insurgency.

URCS started implementing the project on 15th September 2007 and it is expected to go on up to 15th May 2008.

It is aimed at improving access to safe drinking water as well as to improve hygiene and health of 19,000 former internally displaced people who are in the process of resettling in the four sub counties of Minakulu, Ngai, Otwal and Iceme in Oyam district in northern Uganda.

The four sub counties were the worst-affected in the district by the LRA insurgency.

According to the URCS water and sanitation project officer in Oyam district, Mr Henry Odong, six springs have been protected, four boreholes drilled and 25 boreholes rehabilitated in all the sub counties. Construction of five drainable pit latrines is ongoing, one per Sub County. Two latrines are being constructed in Iceme Sub County due to its big population.

Speaking at the commissioning of one of the drilled boreholes at Amwa Demonstration School in Minakulu sub county on 13th March, Mr Harry Van Putten, the German Red Cross water and sanitation project coordinator, said Oyam is a pilot district for the project but they expect to rollout to other districts. He pledged more support in the resettlement of IDPs.

'We want to support Oyam district in her recovery programmes of resettling the returnees from IDP camps by providing the basic needs of the people among which is water and sanitation,' Mr Putten said.

Amwa Demonstration School and Amwa Progressive which are some of the beneficiaries of the borehole have 1,523 pupils and 400 students respectively. Over 2,000 people in Minakulu Sub County are expected to benefit from the borehole.

The headmaster of Amwa Demonstration School, Mr Richard Otine, appreciated the efforts of Red Cross taking water closer to their community, saying it will save residents from collecting water 2kms away from their homes.

Oyam district LC5 Chairman, Mr Okello Engola Macodwogo, said water is the biggest challenge in the district since most of the water points in the area were destroyed by the Lord's Resistance Army rebels during the 20 years of insurgency in the north.

'We are so grateful that you have come to empower us. We shall ensure that the water sources are well protected, Mr Engola told a delegation of Uganda Red Cross and German Red Cross officials who participated in the launch.

He said the district authority with a population of over 300,000 people has established clean water points at all trading centres in the district for people to access safe water.

'Each of the 104 schools in the district has been provided with a borehole for children to access clean water,' Mr Engola revealed.

He said under the recovery programme in the sector of agriculture, returnees are encouraged to cultivate quick yielding crops like up-land rice, soya-beans, sunflowers in order to improve their nutrition.

Residents appreciative

Residents of Odokorai village which is also in Minakulu Sub County could not hold back excitement as Red Cross officials drove into their village to commission one of the protected springs. They danced and sang several songs praising the Red Cross as some rushed to the spring to drink and collect water.

The Vice Chairman of Uganda Red Cross Society, Mr Robert Ssebunya, said before the insurgency in northern Uganda, Lango region was second to Buganda in the production of food for the country.

'I'm happy to meet you people from the various IDP hideouts and welcome you back home to start a new life of developing yourselves and your district after 20 years of suffering because of the LRA war in the north,' Mr Ssebunya said.

He said URCS has now joined the recovery programme especially the intervention in water and sanitation, food security with the assistance of the German government through German Red Cross.

He said under the programme, community leaders will be trained to manage the water sources in order to benefit their areas for a longer time where over 50,000 people are targeted.

Mr Ssebunya tasked the communities to ensure that the water sources are properly maintained. 'Water is life. It is a basic human resource, therefore if the protected water sources are properly maintained, water borne disease can be prevented and this can enhance your living standards,' he said.

URCS has trained 46 Watsan volunteers to carry out hygiene promotion in the targeted sub counties.The National Society has also formed water user committees to help in the maintenance of the protected water sources.

URCS Deputy Secretary General Michael Richard Nataka said as a National Society mandated to extend services throughout the country, URCS in partnership with other organizations will this year focus on water and sanitation, food security, HIV/AIDS programmes, gender based sexual violence, rehabilitation of former child soldiers, offering of psychosocial support to communities as they resettle and strengthening of the Society's structures.

Meanwhile, Oyam district has granted URCS a plot of land for the construction of a branch office in order to take services nearer to the people.