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Shit is not just a poor man’s problem

posted 19 Feb 2014, 05:04 by Sekuma Peter
A while back, a friend returned from a funeral of one the big men from his village. The man had served as a minister in one of past regimes and had generally lived a good life. My friend’s story from the big man’s funeral wasn’t about the pomp, which many often try to put up even at funerals in our rich world. It was about one shocking aspect of the man’s life. This big man had lived in Kampala and kept his village home like most Ugandans do but to the surprise of my friend this big man’s village home where he was buried had had no toilet/latrine facilities. The only standing structure had been quickly erected at the news of his passing. I was reminded of this story at a sanitation meeting that is taking place in Kampala, which brought participants from 21 countries.

When I first saw the theme“unclogging the blockages” I wondered if we had even anything blocked in the first place. Contrary to held myths that open-air defecation is done by poor people, this story of the big man shows that shit matters in Uganda are everyone’s problem.
Sanitation and especially disposal of human waste many times is not a priority even when people have money. In a country where 75% of the disease burden are preventable and sanitation related, we cannot simply relegate this problem to just a poor person’s problem. And because it is shaped as something distant in some slums and villages, like many problems of these areas, sanitation is the last on our government’s priority list. Our government annually spends Ushs 30 billion on treatment of sanitation related diseases but does little to provide the sanitation support- a preventive measure that would save our tax money.

In the last quarter the government spent only Ushs 5.5 million for sanitation but it will fork out 30 billon by end of the year to treat Ugandans. With corruption that has eaten away most of the systems and in a world where politics rule we can hardly implement even by-laws to ensure Ugandans meet sanitation standards that are well written in our policies.

Julian Kyomuhangi, an assistant commissioner in the Ministry of Health told this gathering that the politics had crippled enforcement of by-laws that aim to tackle open-air defecation. “We started enforcement to get Ugandans to build latrines and we were able to increase latrine coverage by 5% in a short time but we didn’t go far because some people came and said we were disturbing their voters.”  Incredible! These so called ‘some people’ are the leaders who stifle most of development by affirming ridiculous rights to their voters including the right to defecate wherever one feels like!  continue
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