Regional public health officer Charles Lodda of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) argues that sanitation and hygiene should be the priority for Janet Museveni, Uganda’s First Lady and new minister for Karamoja Affairs.
“A lot has been said about what she [Janet Museveni] can do for this most socio-economically marginalised region. One would propose electrification and the provision of a robust and efficient transport infrastructure as the pillars for developing Karamoja. However, as a public health professional working in this region, I beg to differ”.
“A baseline survey by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) reveals that hygiene conditions of homesteads is appalling, with 61.1% households littered with faeces, while the latrine coverage stands at 0.3%. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) puts the figure at 9%, but I would attribute this to institutional latrines”.
“Knowledge on hand washing is lacking, with people knowing two critical hand washing events – before eating food and before preparing it. There is little knowledge of the other three critical and important events – after visiting the latrine or bush, after handling children’s faeces and before feeding infants. […] The incidence of diarrhoea is at 46.5%”.
“Speaking during the participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation training of government extension staff by the IRC, the deputy resident district commissioner (RDC) expressed fears that poor sanitation had become the biggest threat in the region, next to insecurity”.
[…] “A boarding school in Kangole with 1,005 pupils has one five-stance latrine, never mind its condition. Considering the patchy nature of health facilities in the region, these children are sitting on a time bomb. Elsewhere, myths such as a Karimojong elder should “never mix” his feaces with those of an in-law still loom, thereby making the idea of owning a latrine so alien”.
“Eradication of poverty, hunger, child mortality, achievement of universal primary education, gender equality and empowerment of women are the key aspects of the millenium development goals. We can set a right environment for their attainment by streamlining sanitation in all aspects of development programmes to improve the sanitation ladder of the people of Karamoja”.
Source: Charles Rodda, New Vision / allAfrica.com, 09 Jun 2009