MASAFU, November 2, 2010 - Erinah Hasasya walks an average of 10 kilometers from her home in Masafu in search of clean water. That adds up to 15 to 17 hours a week during the dry season. In eastern Uganda, many women like Hasaya travel long distances for water, sometimes exposing themselves to danger and limiting their time for other activities like school or work.
Luckily for 23-year old Hasasya and many others, this will soon change. Three water pumps were commissioned in September to bring clean water to over 7,000 people in Masafu, a small sub-county in Eastern Uganda’s Busia District.
The project is part of Uganda’s output-based aid (OBA) pilot program for small towns and rural growth centers – one of the first such programs in Sub-Saharan Africa – which is expected to improve access to water for over 55,000 people. The program is supported by a US$3.2 million grant from the Global Partnership on Output-Based Aid (GPOBA), a World Bank-administered program.
Under the GPOBA pilot, over 200 private service connections in the form of yard taps and 140 public stand-posts have been constructed in Masafu. Altogether, the project has reached more than 29,000 beneficiaries.
Before the program, the Masafu Primary School could only afford to run one tap for two hours a day to provide water for 200 pupils, explained Nakku Bena Elizabeth, Masafu Primary School’s head teacher.
“We feel so much relief after the commissioning of these waters pumps. The school now has five yard taps and water flows throughout the day,”said Elizabeth.
Before having access to clean, piped water, most residents of Masafu largely depended on swamps and a few boreholes constructed by government to provide water for agriculture and domestic use.In Busia District, 64 percent of residents have access to safe water in both rural and urban areas. In Masafu sub-county 63.3 percent have access.
The three water pumps were completed on schedule according to Vincent Adera, the Chief Administrative Officer of Busia District. He said the community was extremely cooperative during the process and even pitched in to help complete the initiative.
Masafu’s water pumps will be maintained by a regional umbrella organization established by the Ministry of Water to support functionality, sustainability, operations and maintenance in Eastern Uganda.
Searching for water exposes women to risks
Limited access to clean water and sanitation has not only threatened the livelihood of people in Masafu sub-county, but has already exposed the rural women to more dangers like battering, rape and poverty. Women often play the main role in providing water for their families and sometimes need to travel far to find it, particularly in rural areas where there is no piped water.
“You see women and girls moving up and down collecting water and firewood and going further and further distance to look for them and this exposes them to a lot of risks in areas where there are conflicts,”said Hon. Rose Munyira, the district’s woman member of Parliament.
The lack of access to water also begins to affect productivity for women, said Minister of State for Water Jennifer Namuyangu Byakatonda at the commissioning in September.
“More and more women and girls are having to spend a lot of time in search of the commodity. The amount of time they spend collecting water actually stops them from being able to engage in other economic activities, either for themselves or to support their families. So productivity is affected by the lack of access to water,” Byakatonda said.
Through GPOBA, the Ministry of Water and Environment is supporting the implementation of water and sanitation facilities in seven small towns and four rural growth centers in Uganda, including Busembatia, Kachumbala, Kalisizo, Luwero, Magale, Masafu, Namutumba, Rukungiri, Sipi, Wakiso, and Wobulenzi.
The GPOBA funds are used under a public-private partnership involving local water authorities and private operators selected through a competitive process administered by the Ministry of Water and Environment. Under the OBA approach, the grants are disbursed only after the operators have delivered the agreed outputs or services to a satisfactory standard.
The Ugandan government remains committed to increasing access to safe water services to 77 percent for the entire population and to 100 percent for the urban population by the year 2015.
“The government was steadfast in service delivery and it is geared towards fulfilling the MDGs, water being one of them,” Byakatonda said.