Government came up with the Public Health Act of 1964, which requires every homestead to have a pit latrine
Uganda, the ‘Pearl of Africa’, is a small country with big attractions and even bigger aspirations. Here you’ll find the continent’s tallest mountain range and largest lake, the source of the world’s longest river, and 39 million people from more than 50 tribes.
Apart from all the beautiful attraction, sanitation remains one of the key health issues in Uganda. Many people lack access to adequate sanitation facilities, propagating disease and high rates of child death (1.5 million deaths annually).
In the early 1960s and the years before, many Ugandans were freely using the bush as their ‘toilet’. Others would dig holes in their gardens, where they would defecate and thereafter cover with soil or grass.
When the population started growing, defecating in bushes posed a health concern to communities. Faecal matter would end up in the springs or wells whenever it would rain. This would result in diseases like diarrhoea, attacking communities that shared the water source.
It is such conditions that provoked the Government to come up with the Public Health Act of 1964 (revised in 2000), which requires every homestead to have a pit latrine, and failure to comply is an offence.
The Act provides the basis for undertaking measures to prevent and address a range of diseases for the preservation of public health. For instance, Chapter 281 of the Act states that every citizen is obliged to have access to a toilet or latrine at home and the workplace. This would be strengthened with bylaws implemented in the various localities.
In the past, parish chiefs would visit homesteads and arrest the family heads whose homes did not have pit latrines. Consequently, it forced people to put up rudimentary toilets using tree logs.
For fear of being arrested, a family head would dig a pit as shallow as 10 feet, cut logs and lay them across the pit. He would then put up a short mud-and-wattle wall around the toilet and thatch it with grass. However, this only went on until the late 1980s.
Over the years, the population has increased; slums have emerged in various urban areas and people dispose off faeces anywhere. The inhabitants of most slums have toilets or latrines so close to their houses, while others use polythene bags, commonly known as ‘flying toilets’, in which they dispose off faecal matter which they throw on rooftops and in water channels.
For the occupants of wetlands, where toilets cannot be sunk, people should construct storeyed toilets or buy mobile plastic toilets, which can be emptied.
Condition in the Capital of Uganda
Over 90 per cent of Kampala residents lack access to a sewer line, which means that the majority of the city residents do not have access to flush toilets and therefore use pit latrines or resort to open defecation. It is common for latrines in Kampala to be abandoned once full because of the prohibitive cost of pit-emptying and/or the difficult logistics of reaching some latrines to have them be emptied. This has caused over 50 per cent of the latrines in Kampala to become full or overflowing. The filled latrine pits that have been emptied are typically done so illegally and secretively. When accessing a latrine is difficult, adults and children are forced to walk long distances, to resort to open defecation, or to resort to defecating in a “flying toilet.”
One of the reasons so many latrines are abandoned in Kampala is because the owners have no financial stake in the process as the latrines were provided at no cost by local and international NGOs.
What is and what will be in Kampala
Mason-built pit latrine
Mason-built latrines, commonly found throughout Uganda, can take weeks to months to be constructed. The pit is open, meaning flies and insects can freely spread sanitation-related disease; and odors can make using these sorts of pit latrines quite unpleasant. Some pits such as these have larger openings making them a safety concern for small children.
Dura San Latrines
As you can see, this latrine was built with metal doors. Most of the previous latrines constructed had wooden doors which caused several unexpected issues including theft of doors, as wood is quite expensive in Uganda. Additionally, it is difficult to find quality wood that has been properly treated/prepared, which resulted in warped and cracked doors. Metal doors are more secure, are less attractive to thieves, can be installed faster.
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