Clean Water Challenges in a Kampala Slum

27th March 2018

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Francis is 62 years old. He has lived in a slum in Kampala, Uganda for 25 years. In all this time, he has never seen this community or his small room that he rents for his family, as home.

20 litres of clean water can be purchased from a protected spring some distance away.

“I came here from a village in western Uganda, almost 260 miles away,” he says. “The situation got so bad in my village that I had to come here to try to get work and money to support my family. Most of my energy has gone into putting together the money to give my children their education. I want to support them and give them a chance at a better life. I moved when I was young, I’m an old man now. I would like to return to my village and buy some land.”

Francis earns a small living selling potatoes, tomatoes, onions, avocados and nuts on the streets. He moved to the slums as, like for many people, they were the only place he could afford to live.

For one room that is shared by ten people, Francis pays 100,000 shillings per month. (Around £20).  As is the case with many slum communities, the simplest aspects of life can be a huge challenge. Like their water supply.

Francis explains some of the challenges of obtaining clean water. A 20 litre container costs 1,000 shillings from a protected spring well some distance away. Once he arrives there, he can frequently wait three hours or more, and in that time, it’s not uncommon for fights to break out in the queue.

Dirty water can be obtained from a local well, but the fuel needed to boil it is expensive.

Another option open to Francis is to collect water from a more local spring well. This is closer, but the water is very dirty and needs to be boiled before it can be consumed. This in itself is only possible when they are able to afford charcoal. Many people in the slums have no choice but to consume this water without boiling it, and consequentially many people suffer with typhoid.
Sickness in the slums is generally commonplace. This is certainly the case in Francis’ household.

“The children get sick the most, sometimes up to three times a month. Abdominal pain, fever, coughing, diarrhoea are the most common symptoms. When the children get sick it effects our income. We probably won’t eat as that day’s work is cancelled. The children miss school, and if they miss lessons they will struggle to catch up. We have to get them back in school as soon as we can, so we go to the hospital to get treatment. It usually costs around 30,000 shillings and you could be there all day or longer.”

Francis went on to talk about what clean water would mean to his family:

“Clean water will give us good life! No more illness, no more visits to hospital, no more money on treatments and medications. I heard about the water filters a while ago. You sometimes see them on sale but they are so expensive. I would never have enough money to buy one. I would put it here in our home for us and the neighbours to use. If my children had access to a filter they would grow up knowing clean water they would know to pour any dirty water through the filter to make it clean, it would be a part of their life. What a great thing that would be.”

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