Uganda: Water shortage ravages health development

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Abdulkarim Ssengendo
November 8, 2011

The lack of access to safe water at some of the heath centers in Uganda has become an insurmountable obstacle to developing health standards there.

Though water, after oxygen, is the second most important substance for human health, patients and health workers at some health centers in the country are spending days without it.

Kamwezi health center four in Rukiga sub district, Kabale district is a perfect example of such health centers as our network’s member, Ssengendo Abdulkarim found out.

Kamwezi health center four caters for three sub counties of Kamwezi, Bukinda and Muhanga town council in Kabale district. It also serves as referral health center for 11 other health centers in the area.

In a day it receives over 60 patients.

Now, over 1000 people using this health center are vowing to abandon it due to lack of safe water but unfortunately they have no alternative since Kamwezi is the only best and big health center with the required facilities in Rukiga sub district.

“We move long distance to fetch water and sometimes we leave here out patients alone yet they need our presence all time because they are in critical conditions,” Mable Bangirana, a patient’s caretaker in the labor ward says.

“Some patients have died just because the health center lacks water. The problem is not affecting this health center but even people in the villages have no water,” Verentino Ntwirenabo, a resident of Ngango village also notes.

At Kamwezi Health center, Patients have not been able to get water to wash their clothes and beddings for days and their caretakers and health workers sometimes spend a day without water. They fetch dirty water from shallow wells situated far from the health center.

A labour ward at Kamwezi health center four

“This is a public health emergency which has affected this health center for a long time and we need a quick intervention to rescue the health workers and patients, the threat of typhoid, cholera and other diseases from poor sanitation is real here,” Jean Akanwasa, supervisor Rukiga South Health sub district in Kabale district laments.

Akankwasa further notes that they are now using the health center’s vehicle to fetch water. The vehicle is however not meant for this work.

“A lot of fuel sometimes is spent on fetching water, yet that fuel should have been used to transport patients who are in hard to rich areas.” Akankwasa stresses.

He further notes that health workers sometimes contribute money meant for buying fuel for the vehicle so that it can go to fetch water for them and some patients.

The health center has only one small water harvesting tank, which cannot serve the center for a week.

The only water tank at Kamwezi health center four

Some units at this health center such as the laboratories and labor wards do not operate during the times of water shortage.

“You cannot work on blood, stool when you don’t have water, sensitive units sometimes don’t run due to water shortage,” Akankwasa stresses.

Kibanda Health center II in Kamwezi Sub County in Kabale district is also affected by the same problem according to Akankwasa.

“They need a nearby water source. They had a bore hole but broke down many years ago and it has never been repaired,” notes Akankwasa.

Besigye Kaihwa, the Kabale district chairperson says the district administration is aware of the water shortages in at these health centers. He notes that they plan to give water harvesting tanks to Kamwezi health center as a quick intervention.

He also notes that Rwenyanja gravity flow water scheme would be rehabilitated by the district so that it can supply safe water to this health center and the neighboring areas.

“We have visited the place, surveyed and we will solve the problem very soon,” notes Kaihwa.

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