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Mbale Falls Below Target in Providing Safe Affordable Water

The high population growth rate is affecting the efforts put up by Mbale district in trying to achieve the national development plan of providing safe affordable drinking water to the poor in both urban and rural areas.
Students of Daughters Hostel Fetching Dirty Water From River Nabuyonga

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High population growth rate has quashed efforts to achieve the national development plan of providing safe affordable drinking water to the poor in both urban and rural areas, especially in Mbale.

In Mbale Municipality only an estimated 40,000 out of a population of 95,000 people have access to improved water provided by the National Water and Sewerage Corporation-NWSC.

Eric Nyanga, an engineer attached to the National Water and Sewerage Corporation-NWSC Mbale area office blames the low number of people who have access to clean water in Mbale on tenancy.

Nyanga explains that most people who live in Mbale town are tenants making it hard for them to access clean affordable water because National Water and Sewerage Corporation only connects water to people who have built their own homes and have land titles.

Nyanga says as a result between thirty to fifty families are forced to share one tap of water.

According to Nyanga, the per capita consumption of water in a day stands at 35 liters per day, per person while institutions like boarding schools use 50 liters per day per person.This puts the cost of clean affordable water at 4,500 approximately two dollars per person in a month.

A recent report released by the World Health Organization-WHO indicates that 89% the world’s population had access to improved drinking water by the year 2010. The report estimates the proportion will improve further to 92 percent by the year 2015.

But Mbale with an annual growth rate of 3.3, slightly above the 3.2% national growth rate in Uganda is far from achieving both the National Development Plan-NDP and the millennium development goal of providing clean safe and affordable water to its residents by the year 2015.

Engineer Fred Ddembe Mazanga, the Mbale District Water Officer explains that the high population growth rate is a hindrance to the efforts put up by government to provide safe affordable water to people in rural and urban areas.

Ddembe says Mbale district annually funds the construction of about 20 water points which include shallow wells, springs, boreholes and gravity water schemes. He however says the high population growth rate in the district which is at 3.3 percent is exerting much pressure on the efforts they are undertaking to provide clean water.

Ddembe says efforts they have put in place is not helping much because even if they construct 20 water points in a year this cannot meet the needs of the rising population. He says the Mbale is financially constrained and cannot afford to provide safe clean water to all the people in the district.

The water officer explains that drilling a borehole costs 20 million Uganda shillings approximately US$8500 while the cost of a gravity flow water scheme is about 300 million shillings approximately U$129,000.

The high cost of water has however forced locals in Mbale town to turn to fetching water from rivers and stream that are contaminated with human waste. A recent outbreak of cholera that has been blamed on poor sanitation left two people dead and 100 others hospitalized.

Despite the outbreak, the locals have continued to fetch water from River Nabuyonga which is heavily contaminated with human feces.

Locals and school children use water from the river for drinking and other domestic purpose.

Monica Nadunga , a student of Mbale Secondary School who resides is aware of the outbreak of cholera in Mbale town but explains that she has no choice but to fetch dirty water from the river to use for drinking since Daughters Student’s Hostel where she lives does not have piped water.

She explains that the water is so scarce that sometimes they lack water for making tea and bathing before going to class.

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Hellen Namutosi, another student of Mbale Secondary School explains that the scarcity of water has forced them to collect water which is contaminated with human waste. She explains that the students who reside in Daughters Hostel are aware of the dangers of drinking contaminated water but they have no alternative source.

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Linas Nasmiyu,  the Mbale Municipal Education Officer says the council will investigate to find out whether the children are indeed fetching water from the river. She however says its illegal for a hostel to operate without water.

Mbale’s water coverage stands at 55% for urban areas and 59 for rural which is below the national water coverage of 63 percent.

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