Saturday, 22 November 2014

Kampala Urban Slums

A private water connection
Morning all, as I sit here in the hotel writing my blog its difficult to put myself back in the slums yesterday morning. It was such a hard hitting experience in more ways that one.

We started our day visiting Kampala City Centre Authority (KCCA) where we had a presentation from local officials and a manager from National Water and Sewage Corporation (NWSC). What a brilliant presentation to give us an overview of the challenges they are facing in the urban slums and the solutions that they are putting in to try and address the lack of access to clean water and sanitation.

Kampala has a population of roughly 1.6 million people over 200m2, 60% of these live in the urban slums, which make up only a small area of the city. To give you an idea the urban slums in Kampala have a population density of 400/hectare, the rest of Kampala is 73/hectare. To put that in perspective according to 2011 census data London has a population density of 52 per hectare.

Ironic Sign
NWSC has four water tariffs, a domestic tariff (roughly 47 pence per cubic meter) commercial tariff (71 pence a cubic meter), a government tariff and most interestingly a Pro-poor tariff (30 pence per cubic meter). Unfortunatly most don't have personal water connections, instead buying from personal vendors at inflated prices. The urban poor in Kampala survive on less than 85 pence a day. Sanitation coverage in Kampala is 84% with 560 community toilets, only 15 of which are free.

A shower in Kwampe slum
With a great presentation finished we left the KCCA offices and headed to our first stop the Kwampe slums. There is so much to describe here that I will have to rely on the few pictures i took to try and get across the true extent of the poverty here. It had rained a huge amount the night before we went and most of the narrow streets (more like paths) had water running through them, and more dangerously stagnant water in places. The paths are not tarmac-ed as we are used to but are just dirt and with the amount of rain this had turned into mud. One problem in a lot of slums is drainage, often peoples properties are flooded throughout due to a combination of draining and the hills in Kampala. Evidence could be seen throughout the slums with doors half way up a wall so that water cannot easily enter the properties. Throughout the streets rubbish was strewn and I even saw a razor blade, with children walking around bare feet this was a shock to me. Buildings are shoddily put up and seems to be no order or arrangement, ducks chickens and goats roam the streets. Surprisingly to me the residents were welcoming, but we did not see what life was like in the houses and I understand disease is rife.

The condemned water supply in Kwampe Slums
These guys didn't want to leave me.
The toilet facilities are specific to certain communities and locked and are nothing more than a pit, which easily fill up. Residents who don't have access to a toilet use a technique called the flying toilet, this involves defecating in a bag and throwing it. Some local residents have paid to have a water connection installed and sell water to other residents at over inflated prices. Residents will charge more depending on demand. In order to save money a lot of the community will fill up Jerry cans from a supply running through the slum. This supply was condemned 14 years ago due to the fact it is not safe to drink, but for a lot they have no option.

Flooding in the slums
Having spent some time in the slums we got back in our cars. I had to bid farewell to my new friends, two children who wanted to hold my hand and had been for around half an hour. I couldn't help but wonder what the rest of their life may have in store for them and trying to push thoughts from my head about the infant mortality rates,

Flooding in the slums
We then headed over to a Bwaise slums to see their newly installed pre-pay meters. On the way we drove through a flooded area, a result of the heavy rain last night, some shops and homes flooded throughout. Arriving in Bwaise we were told that the storm drain had been so high that a lady and her child had been swept away that morning, the child survived but unfortunately the lady was not not so lucky, a reminder that even the newly built drains, built to protect the slums from flooding, have their own dangers.

The storm drain where a lady was swept away.
The NWSC showing us a pre-pay meter
In these slums there have been improvements, NWSC have been installing prepaid meters, villagers who meet the criteria are able to apply for a prepay meter to be installed. A local caretaker is assigned houses nearby are provided with a token which they can use to access the water supply. Water is charged at the pro poor tariff rate meaning it will cost around 1p to fill a 20 litre Jerry can. To try and encourage residents to use the token they come pre-loaded with over £1. You can load credit on to your token by finding a local vendor, vendors are given 11% commission on all their sales, providing the community with a vital income.

The problem with these improvements in the poorer areas is that it encourages the more affluent of the poor to move in to the region, displacing the poorer either to another slum, or to set up a new slum. This fact really hit it home as to how difficult it is to find a solution to the issues in the slums. Its a massive task to get people access to water and toilet facilities in these area, I think it is the most challenging concept I have come across. In the rural villages the standard of living is really high compared to the slums and the solutions are clear and visible. The slums are a real challenge, the solutions are not clear and the residents are not necessarily engaged. A lot are not willing to adapt to solutions if it effects their everyday life, having no appreciation of the long term benefits the upheaval will bring. 

Its been a long blog and I'm sure I have missed so much, but one last thing I want to write about is the advocacy work that WaterAid do. You will notice that I have made no reference in this blog to WaterAid schemes, a lot of the work they do in these communities are with partners and the communities. Its really important to deliver sustainable solutions and there is no point investing if the government and the local communities are not going to maintain any improvements. Its really clear the relationship and the awareness that WaterAid Uganda staff have tirelessly built up. It is this that has surprised me most from the trip. Its easy to sit at home in the UK and think that WaterAid is a British charity, but the country staff are so passionate they have been a true inspiration to me, so just quickly want to thank (sorry if I miss anyone), Spera, Peter, Caroline, Antonio, Rosemary and James who have really motivated me to get more and more involved in WaterAid's work. 

Last night was our last night and we went to a fantastic Ugandan dancing show, a great way to end the trip with a great group of supporters. Thanks all for making it so special, especially Caroline and her WaterAid UK team. 

Although we fly home today this won't be my last post. I will make sure I post a recap when I am home. Thanks all for reading. 


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

World Toilet Day

Today is world toilet day, a huge day in the WaterAid calender to do another part of their work. As well as practically helping the communities through providing water supplies and educating they also work with governments and local councils to raise awareness of the importance of water and sanitation, today was a perfect example of that! The minister for health and the local Mp were both in attendance at the World Toilet Day celebrations in Amuria. 

We began the day meeting the chairperson for the Amuria District and his government team, they were very welcoming and gave us a summary of their achievements in improving sanitation, despite the challenges of having more sub county's than any other region yet the same amount of funding. 

We then went to the local hospital. I dont think I can put into words my feelings in the health center but I'm sure as hell going to try. I dont have pictures out of respect for the patients, so although it was a small part of the day I will probably spend most time on this. 

The health center serves a community of 55,000 people, given that you would expect quite a large establishment, but this is not so. There are a total of 45 beds in the hospital, yet last year they saw 24,-58 patients. 

Imagine in your head how you picture a hospital? A clean ward, food being served regularly, many toilets and bathing facilities for patients. Then push that from your mind, this is not at all what it was like. Walking into the maternity ward was a huge shock, there were so many women in the ward they were laying on the floor between the beds. There were chickens roaming the ward and broken windows and only one Doctor and one nurse. 

How does this relate to water and sanitation I hear you ask? Well, the toilet has only outdoor pit latrines which only allow for 75% of the hospital population, the latrines are close to the ward and staff housing and the smell travels. In addition some of these latrines are close to full. I felt ill just walking into the toilet, imagine you are ill already and you need to use the toilet, there is no comfort at all. On top of this there is a no kitchen for safe and hygienic cooking and no laundry facilities, this means that patients have to bring their own food and the sheets are washed and dried outside free to collect bacteria. 

One key thing to remember is that health and water are linked closely, a lot of the illness they treat are preventable with access to clean water and hygiene education for the villages. With improvements to water and waste water the demand on the hospitals would be a lot less. 

In the afternoon we went to a local school and spent time with the children, there was also a fantastic presentation from local government officials. Its great to see how many people are firmly behind WaterAid's great work. 

Dancing with the pupils was a great experience and I was  enjoying it so much I didnt take many photos, fortunately the official photographer was on hand, so photos will be available when I return home. In the mean time here is a photo collage of our day. 

As it is world Toilet Day please take some time to visit wateraid.org to see how you can get involved. 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Bobol Village and Wera School

Thanks for reading my blog again! Im amazed by the amount of views that it has had, the more views the more people are aware of WaterAids work, which is essentially what this trip is all about. 

Today we visited Bobol Village, in 2011 Bobol Village was a WaterAid project and as a result was given a fresh water supply and hygiene education. We were in the village to witness firsthand the effect this had had on the villagers way of life. Bobol Village has 83 houses and 76 Latrines.

Today I spent time with Osoman Galacio and Glaia Lucy, father and mother to eight children, the eldest being 26 and the youngest ten, they also have two grandchildren living with them and their mother and father, meaning the total people in their family unit is 14.

I learnt a lot from the family about their way of life but the primary bits I want to share is about how the installation of a bore hole changed their lives. There used to be a lot of diseases and diarrhoea when they had to use well water, since the installation of a pump this has vastly reduced. Robin and Mary (two of the elder children in the house) used to have to travel for 2 hours six times a day to fetch water, now their trip takes less than half an hour.

In addition to the water supply WaterAid educated them in hygienic practice, they now have a clean toilet, handwashing facilities, and dish drying areas away from the animals. Such a stark contrast from the community we spent time with yesterday, they seemed so much healthier, and happier, the atmosphere in the community was so positive. Everywhere we went we were being thanked for our support, what an inspiration these people are!

This afternoon we visited a school, another stark contrast from yesterdays school, government funded, it has many painted messages around the school about the importance of water and hygiene. They have new latrines installed in 2011 as well and now pupils can use the toilet safely and discreetly, they have hand washing facilities and even a changing room for girls. We sat with pupils who were making sanitary towels, this vital piece of education means that girls do not have to miss school during their period. It not only provides them the tools to manage their cycle but also the awareness among the school.

Although there is so much to say pictures speak louder than words so I have shared some pictures for you below. In Uganda there are still 8.5 million people living without safe water and 22.1 million without sanitation. I cannot get over the amazing work that WaterAid is doing not just in this village, not just in this region, not even just in this country, but in 26 countries throughout the world.

It seems crazy that just £6,080 could pay for a borehole in Uganda which can change an entire communities life. 

Monday, 17 November 2014

Ojalai Village

Well, my initial plan was to keep my blog updates short and consise, if they are too long people will stop reading them. Today however is going to be almost impossible to sum up in just one small blog post.

We left our hotel early (6am) and travelled around 1 hour to a local village called Ojalai. Ojolai is a community that has not yet had the benefit of WaterAid support yet, this trip would give us an insight into the challenges communities face without WaterAid’s (and other NGO’s) vital work.

Only a few years ago this town was war torn and the women of the villages raped and many killed, but on this glorious sunny day, you wouldn’t know that now. There is no power supply, no clean running water and no toilet facilities. I spent time with a young family, Agunti Agnes, her husband Essau Paul, and their two one year old twins, Opiya Brian and Acen Robin. Their other two children were not around, one four year old Obongo Calvin was hiding from the scary white folk and Apendo Marchelet and 8 year old girl was at school. Their compound area consists of three huts, one sleeping hut, where all 6 in the family sleep, one spare room and one kitchen. Their toilet facilities are in a small hut, and is essentially a hole in the ground.

Every day Aguti Agnes has to carry her baby twins to the water supply to collect water, the ‘well’ is 400m away and she has to travel around 6 times a day collecting 20 litres a time. The water is dirty and not suitable for drinking. During the dry season Aguti will have to travel 2.5 kms to a bore hole for her water. In this heat, I was struggling and felt awful drinking fresh bottled water while Aguti and her family are drinking dirty water.

Myself and two colleagues helped Aguti and Essou go around their daily chores, repairing the toilet, building hand washing facilities and cooking lunch. To repair the toilet we had to collect some cow dung, mix it with water and spread it around the floor of the toilet. After this I was the ceremonial opener of the toilet, lifting the brick from the hole.

We then helped dig the holes for the handwashing facilities and washed our hands using it.

For lunch we were having chicken, with no shops near by the only food is that prepared by the community and therefore, preparing a meal of chicken involves the slaughter of the chicken. After this rather disturbing event we went to the kitchen to watch preparations. The kitchen was a mud hut with a burning fire in the corner which they cook on.

We shared stories of home with the family and photos of loved ones, the men were particularly fond of the pictures of Barney and Bess, my two dogs, wishing they could have a dog themselves. It was difficult to get across that our process of getting food is vastly different from theirs, everything is packeted and done for us, their style of living is very much self sufficient.

We helped gather water with the family, a hot journey and although not desperately for was hard enough in the heat carrying 20 kilos of water.
As well as sharing their lunch with us we shared our lunch with them, for them it was their first taste of sausages and sandwiches, it felt great to be a part of that. When we packed away the rubbish it was amazing to see how greatful the villagers were with our left behind rubbish, each bit they will make use of, they thanked us and thanked god for us visiting them. Seeing how grateful they were for something so simple made me wish I had brought more things with me to give away.

After a moving and emotional morning, our translators helping us communicate amazingly, we headed to the school. A beautiful welcome song and some speeches. The school has 438 pupils and only three pit toilets, there are 22 disabled pupils at the school and they have no special facilities to help them use the toilet. It must be particularly hard being a girl as there is little facility for menstrual hygiene, if a girl is on their period they are allowed to go home to change. This fact was told to us by a male headteacher, and it was great to hear him talk open and free about the importance of menstrual hygiene, something which WaterAid really focused on in their recent ‘to be a girl’ campaign.

The school is not funded by the government but actually by the community, it was built and is maintained by the community, who each pay the teachers wage. Without this school a vital link with education would have been lost for the 438 pupils here.

The lasting memory of this community is how happy they all are, they are pretty much self sustaining but are greatful for any support that they receive. My lasting memory will be when I asked Paul if he had a message to send back to the UK...his only answer.... Thank you. From a man in a village where they still have no running water this spoke volumes to me. 

So thats it for today, there was so much to convey no blog post will ever do it justice. Tomorrow we will visit a community which has been touched by WaterAids work, we will see the difference it has made to the lives of its villagers. 

Thank you Southern Water and WaterAid for giving me the opportunity and the support to share your amazing journey. 


Saturday, 15 November 2014

Good Morning Kampala

Morning All.

I have a spare 5 minutes to update my blog, so even though I don't have a lot to say I thought I would share my experience so for.

The 'gang' met at Heathrow Airport at 8.30am yesterday morning, under the giant H. The 'gang' I am referring to consists of 13 colleagues from companies across the water industry, (From Scottish Water to Affinity and from Northern Ireland Water to the Environment Agency) and 4 from WaterAid.

The flight was 8 hours direct to Entebbe airport, which is near enough on the Equator. One of the most common questions that I was asked before travelling was, 'Are you afraid of Ebola?'... well I wasn't. Arriving at the airport and being greeted by staff in plastic aprons and surgeons masks taking your temperature and issuing hand sanitizer was however a little bit daunting. It was a stark remember how real the threat of ebola is, especially here in Africa. We are lucky to be able to joke a about coming home with Ebola (the most common thing people said to me before travelling) but here the threat is a bit closer to home. On the other hand its nice to know that Uganda are taking the virus seriously.

After leaving the airport, my wallet struggling under the weight of 400,000 shillings, we met with Antonio and Spiero ( I really hope that I have remembered/spelt their names correctly). We boarded our coach ready for the hour transfer to our hotel in Kampala. About a mile down the road one of the group realised the driver didn't have any headlights on. After struggling to find them we pulled up at the side of the road (next to a man with a large gun)  the driver investigated further. Long story short, a fleet of taxi cabs had to be called to take us onward to our destination, leaving me too tired to wonder what on earth the bus driver was going to do with no lights on a dark road after midnight.

Kampala has a population of roughly 1.6 million people and covers 73 square miles built on seven hills, there seemed to be a fair few of the population partying at clubs while we made our way to the hotel.The rest of our journey was incident free, there were some interesting sights and smells along the way, the most interesting of which was some giant floodlights in between upright sheets of corrugated metal. Our driver, James, later informed us that these were set up to catch Grasshoppers to cook and eat. How delightful.

Anyway, I must get showered now, we have a long 6 hour journey to Soroti today.

Will update you all again soon.


Friday, 14 November 2014

Today is the day

So today has finally arrived I'm all packed and waiting for my ride to the airport, a reliable taxi firm I like to call dad.

My bag is heavy owing mainly to a whole heap of southern water baseball caps I am taking for the kids.

While packing I realised its been a while since I really roughed it. Opting for a suitcase not my backpack (hopefully that won't cause me too many problems) and even almost forgetting a towel. I am wondering if after meeting some of the communities in uganda I will start to feel that some of the things I packed are unessesary luxury's.

In a minute I will say goodbye to my ever patient and wonderful wife, something neither of us are looking forward to.

This won't be a long post but for those reading my blog regularly my next post will be in Uganda. Have a good week all and see you on the other side.

Sunday, 9 November 2014


"For many of us, clean water is so plentiful and readily available that we rarely, if ever, pause to consider what life would be like without it."

With under a week to go until I travel to Uganda with WaterAid and thirteen colleagues from the Water Industry, I have been overly conscious about water (Akipi in Ateso) in everything I do. What would it be like if I didn't have easy access to clean water? What  if I couldn't go to the toilet in a safe environment?

So what have I done? Not a lot really, baked, gone to the football, stayed in watching the remembrance service on TV. Regardless of what I have done one thing is for sure I certainly needed water and a toilet on more than one occasion over the weekend. 

I certainly took for granted while baking that in order to add the 200ml I needed for the sugar syrup in the Gulab Jamun I was baking,all I had to do was turn on the tap. When my parents came round, all I had to do to make them a tea was go to the kitchen and fill up the kettle. 

This time next week I will be learning how people in Uganda prepare food, gather water and look after their families. I will be seeing the problems they have and the work WaterAid is doing to try and address this. 

Everywhere we go we expect to have access to a clean toilet. As I walked towards the Amex Stadium to watch Brighton play, desperate for a wee I began to ponder: What would it be like to not know there was somewhere safe and clean (well, cleaner than I imagine the Bwaise slums to be!) to go to te toilet. But we take these facilities for granted, we even moan when we find them in a poor condition. Its these sorts of things that I think about as I prepare for this trip.

Please don't misunderstand, I am not saying that our expectation for a clean toilet and fresh running water at the turn of a tap are an unnecessary luxury.All I am saying is that it is important to remember that in a world where smart phones and the internet are becoming a 'need,' there are still some people in the world that don't have access to water and sanitation. 

Well, that's all from me now until we travel next week. I must now go off and pack, I think I have everything sorted now, most importantly I have started taking Bimuno, hopefully a godsend. 

If you want to know any more about our trip head over to wateraid.org. You can also read my fellow travellers blogs here.