Monday, July 14, 2014

WASH team: helping to solve water challenges

We, the UVP WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) team, are a diverse group with a wide range of backgrounds:

Jacqueline, from Uganda and of Busoga roots, is a team leader and has recently finished her final exams for a BS in Environmental Health Science from Makerere University.  Padraic, from Minnesota, is also a team leader.  He is a working professional with his MS in Biomedical Engineering from University of Wisconsin.  Craig, from Kentucky, is currently an undergraduate student studying Environmental Health Sciences from Baylor University.  Daphne, from Kampala, Uganda, is an undergraduate student studying Public Health from International Health Sciences University.  Jenessa is a graduate student pursuing her MA in Anthropology from the University of Memphis.  And, Joshua, from the D.C. area, is a graduate student pursuing his MA in Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Tech.

As a team, we'll be working in three villages in Iganga District: Namunkesu, Nawansega, and Kinu.  Within these villages, our goal is to work with community members and leaders to address issues related to clean water accessibility and proper hygiene and sanitation.  Our relationship with the community will be one of collaboration, cooperation, and facilitation, rather than one of authority.  By the time we leave, we hope to empower these communities with valuable education, civic systems, and important networks so that in the future they will be able to solve water challenges on their own.

To help us achieve these goals, we will be working with a variety of partners.  Such partners include Patrick and Titus, UVP staff members, who specialize in water and sanitation work, such as the construction of shallow wells.  We will also work with each of the three villages' Water and Sanitation Committees (WSCs).  Each committee is in charge of maintaining an individual water source within the community, be it a borehole, shallow well, or protected spring.  Additionally, we will work with each village's Village Health Team (VHT) members.  These community representatives are trained to be the first point of contact for community members for health-related issues.  Furthermore, we will communicate frequently with the  District Water Office, the government office in charge of providing the materials for the construction and maintenance of all water projects.  Lastly, and most importantly, we will work with individual members of the community.

Our first week of work was very busy. We were led on a full tour of Namunkesu by the VHTs. we attended a meeting with the District Water Office.  We organized a meeting with Namunkesu's WSC members and VHTs.  And, we held a community-wide introductory meeting for us to formally meet community members.
The WASH team introducing themselves to the village of Namunkesu
Judging from the first week we've been here, it is clear we will be able to achieve some very specific goals.

One of the primary concerns of community members, WSC members, and VHTs in Namunkesu is a borehole which stopped working on Tuesday of last week.  Our goal is to connect community members with the District Water Office to facilitate a timely repair.  As a result of this broken borehole, other water sources are experiencing increased strain (both mechanically and characterized by longer lines).  Getting this fixed (and paid for by the community) would be a great accomplishment for our group and the community at large.
An inoperable borehole. We're working with the community to raise funds for its repair.
We would also like to help facilitate the construction of a new shallow well in the Budome neighborhood of Namunkesu.  Currently, some community members fetch their water from the swamp because the nearest clean water source is too far away to easily access by walking.  We have been speaking to community members, WSC members, and VHTs both in meetings and house-to-house visits about the application process for a new shallow well through UVP.  We will also begin a needs assessment for a new well as soon as that application is signed.
One of Namunseku's water sources, a protected stream
Within each of the three villages, we also intend to hold community-wide "sensitizations," or education sessions, on topics related to water, sanitation, and hygiene.  Specifically, we'll organize events in which the entire community is invited to attend, and we'll speak in detail about the "Safe Water Chain" (the proper collection, transport, treatment, and storage of water), the importance of personal hygiene to prevent the transmission of disease, and the great benefits associated with using latrines for sanitation.
Jackie is speaking (and Padraic standing) at our community's meeting of
Water & Sanitation Committees and Village Health Team members
By the end of the six weeks we will also organize a meeting for all of the WSCs from all three villages.  In this multi-village meeting, the various WSCs will be able to share their separate experiences, challenges, and successes, and hopefully work more closely together in the future to address water challenges.

Overall, we are very optimistic about the positive impacts that we can help create in the coming six weeks.  If this first week is of any indication of how busy we will be in the regard, then we will certainly have our hands full, but we are ready for the challenge!

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