A basic hand-washing device is providing better hygiene in Toroma sub-county. One of the most effective ways of combating poverty and saving resources is functioning support for water and sanitation.
Photo: Helen Holm
Water – a basic cornerstone in combating poverty
Sweden has been providing support to Uganda’s water and sanitary sector for more than 10 years. Important improvements have strengthened Uganda’s institutions that manage water resources. About 63 per cent of the population in the country now has access to clean water, a huge increase compared with 2000 when just 50 per cent had the same conditions.
One of the most effective ways of combating poverty and saving resources is functioning support for water and sanitation. According to a calculation, every kronor invested can bring eight back by reducing costs and increasing productivity. The situation in Uganda is no exception.
Investments for the future
The lack of clean water and poor sanitation often sends societies into a negative spiral that slows down developments and costs major resources. Productivity falls and dependency on development assistance increases. It is not uncommon for children to pay the highest price. Waterborne illnesses are one of the main causes of death among children under the age of five.
Helen Holm, Sida’s programme officer for Swedish support, says: “When you talk to women who have had access to clean water, they often say that the biggest difference is that the children are not ill as often. As a result, they don’t have to spend as much money on medicine either.”
The problem of insufficient and far-away water sources also carries a clear gender aspect. By tradition, it is almost always women and girls who fetch water. It is a time-consuming task that often deprives young girls of the opportunity to go to school. Functioning devices for collecting water in the local environment have the potential to give many children a future that would otherwise not be possible.
Return of displaced people causes new challenges
Sweden is providing extra support to Uganda in 2009 and 2010 to meet the huge requirements that exist. These are both the result of a powerful population increase and the many displaced people who are returning to the poor rural districts.
A war with the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel movement has been destabilizing northern Uganda for 20 years. About 2 million people have been displaced internally in provisional camps during the conflict. Now that there is relative peace, many are returning to their home areas, where there is often a considerable lack of basic social services.
“These societies need to be built up from the foundations with schools and health care, while job opportunities must also be created,” Holm says. “For this to happen, access to clean water is an absolute necessity.”
Sweden’s support has identified important selective measures to simplify conditions for the displaced people returning. The focus will be on rebuilding previously abandoned devices for water and sanitation. The support is expected to provide about 100,000 people with access to water.