Slums & Sewage (lots of!)

Friday was our last day of formal activities. We left at 07:30am  (which felt like a lie in compared to previous days) to visit the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) which is essentially the local council. We met with the CEO of the KCCA, a representative from the local water authority and the Director of Public health services and environment. We had presentations on the status of water and sanitation in Kampala which i personally found really useful.  

Fact of the day: Only 6% of Kampala has a sewerage network with treatment, the rest of the city essentially has on site treatment in the form of pit latrines and septic tanks. 

We were given a presentation on the roll out of the pre-pay, poor-pro meters. These access points essentially enable communities to access clean water operate using token system to take payment. Like a mobile phone the token can topped up and then used to buy water at a special poor pro tariff. The meters are not cheap however, each one costs around $1000 that is not including the infrastructure costs to install the meter and all the associated costs with providing the tokens to the communities.

The water authority were quick to point out that it did not have the budget to be able to roll these out across all of the slum areas of Kampala and that roll outs were essentially being funded from donations and NGO contributions. 


After some tea and a second breakfast (nice!) we began our visit to the slums. I didn't really know what to expect, I have been to India previously and have witnessed poverty but the only real 'slums' I had seen have been on TV and through GCSE geography. There are many slums in Kampala and it is surprising how close they are to commercial and 'normal' residential areas.

Just 15 minutes drive from the KCCA building we had arrived.  The rainfall the previous night had flooded parts of the slum, there were open sewers in the streets and rubbish piled up where ever there was space. The slum (surprisingly) had a clean water supply from the national water authority, these were rare though and seen as a commodity. The people who owned the taps would often try to charge 10 times the actual value of the water meaning that to many access to clean water was not affordable.

The only alternative was to drink from a contaminated water supply where contaminants from the ground had polluted the source. The whole experience was quite moving, for me the sad thing was that the community had a water supply but it just wasn't made accessible to all which then meant people getting sick and catching various water borne diseases. 


We then headed to Bwaise Slum which is home to 50,000 Ugandans. The drive into Bwaise was quite grim, the road was flooded so it was a challenge to access even with our 4x4s. Again the heavy rainfall had flooded peoples homes, on our drive in we could we could see people trying to bail out the water from their shops and homes which had been build on the low lying areas of the slum.Rainfall and the lack of appropriate drainage systems was clearly a major issue in Kampala. 

When we finally arrived the visit was a complete mix of emotions. On one hand we got to witness lots of great work which has previously taken place such as the the pre-paid water meters which the community could use to access clean water and the drainage ditches WaterAid had funded to improve the flow of water and therefore sanitation.

On the other hand we were told that before we had arrived and as a result of last nights rainfall a mother and her child were washed into one of the drainage ditches. The bystanders had managed to save the child but unfortunately not the mother and rescue services had come to retrieve the body from the water whilst we were there.


The most shocking thing is that when I asked some of the local councilors about this, it turns out that it is actually a fairly regular occurrence. Despite having access to clean water and the building of drainage ditches there was still clearly more to do.

One of my biggest learning points from the day was just how embedded WaterAid is with the local communities through its partner organisations. It is easy to forget that access to clean water and sanitation is not just about allocating funds to solve problems but also about providing advocacy. WaterAid and its  partners educate communities on their human rights and also lobby Governments to take more responsibility for change. Together this approach will hopefully bring lasting and sustainable changes especially in the slum areas where change is most definitely needed.