23 March 2019

Uganda: If Water Is Life, We Should Protect It

editorial

Water is life. This is not just a bumper-sticker statement. Water affects almost every facet of our lives, whether we know it or not. The entire week, water issues have been highlighted in several fora in the run up to Water Day (March 22) celebrations.

However, for people who live in areas where water flows as fast as the need arises, the fact that at least 24 million people in the country have no access to safe water is lost on them. This statistic from the water.org's latest report on water crises around the world seems unbelievable.

Considering that safe water is defined as "a safely managed drinking water service where the resource is accessible on the premises, available when needed and free from contamination", that number suddenly makes sense.

While it may seem that there is enough water for everyone, this is not the case. The sight of lines of jerry cans at a water point is a common one. For some of these, that water will cost from Shs200 to Shs500 per jerry can.

That water, in most cases, is used as drinking water, to prepare meals, for grooming and to feed the animals where a family has them. At some points, the taps run dry before everyone has a bit of the water. Where people cannot afford to buy the water, nearby springs and wells save the day.

However, these are always at the risk of being contaminated. The blessing we have in the fresh water lake that is Victoria has for years been polluted. Waste gets into the lake, full of plastics, kaveera and all manner of garbage that makes the water unsafe for drinking.

Our water is, therefore, not as accessible, available nor free from contamination as should be. This year's theme, "Leaving no one behind" is what we should be aiming for. The government has made strides in making sure people have access to safe water by digging wells and boreholes. While this is commendable, there is still a lot of work to do.

Some of the boreholes and wells have since been abandoned since they were not maintained. In other instances, some people cannot afford the Shs200 or Shs500 and so will make do with whatever water is available. This means consumption of unsafe water or going days without washing themselves, creating an unhygienic situation.

These people are being left behind and it is up to everyone in charge to take action so that water is enjoyed as the right it is, by everyone. This means protecting the existing water sources from contamination or extinction.

The issue: Water Day.

Our view: Our water is not as accessible, available nor free from contamination as should be. This year's theme, "Leaving no one behind" is what we should be aiming for. The government has made strides in making sure people have access to safe water by digging wells and boreholes. While this is commendable, there is still a lot of work to do.

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