The genesis of community led sanitation in urban settlements: Kampala Central Water and Sanitation

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The genesis of community led sanitation in urban settlements:

Story by: Ssesazi Herman-KYCTV-Kampala central.


The year 2002 marked the beginning of assistance to dwellers of urban slums. For years, several actors have been dragging their feet in developing solutions that will assist many city dwellers.  Slums are the most dreaded areas in any country, marked by poverty, diseases, low social status, an informal manner of life, poor sanitation, and significant unemployment, particularly among young people. Because of their status and classification, these areas are not only at risk of mortality, disease, crime, and violence for many residents, but they also constitute a threat to social unrest and national security.

The year 2002 marked the beginning of substantial and purposeful engagement to address the numerous issues faced by urban slum dwellers. This initiative was spearheaded by the late Mr. Jockins, the founder of Slum Dwellers International, who, on record, did a fantastic job galvanizing resources to ensure that urban slum dwellers who have been marginalized around the world mobilize and organize into federations with one voice and power to address the challenges they face.

When Mr. Jockins arrived in Uganda, he made it a point to leave his mark, and it was for this reason that a meeting between the Kampala City Authority; Kampala Capital City Authority and the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development, represented by Mr. Babu Francis supported the initiative. This was the beginning of the Uganda National Slum Dwellers Federation, an organization formed to guide the mobilization of saving groups as a pillar on which slum dwellers can fully improve their livelihoods while also raising their voices on matters that impact them.

During the engagements, Kisenyi III because of its poor living conditions, most vulnerable in terms of sanitation, health, and hygiene, as well as its housing with a high population density.

The changing trends spurred people to organize savings groups, the first of which was the Kisenyi III savings and credit society in Kiti Zone. Poor sanitation in the area, due to a lack of decent and adequate bathroom facilities, was listed high among the issues that the group immediately began to organize to ensure that the prevailing challenges affecting communities are collectively addressed. According to community members, this resulted in a slew of issues, including diseases caused by open defecation, poisoning of water and streams, and community infighting.

To solve this problem, Slum Dwellers International, an umbrella organization for all federations through the Diaphorate programme, financed the construction of a community-led sanitation in Kampala division. This unit was intended to improve sanitation by making it easy for people to properly dispose of their human waste, increasing hand washing, and providing a space for community members to congregate and discuss issues that are essential to them.

The Ministry of Lands and Urban Development, and the local government were supposed to buy land to support this process, but they requested the people to contribute to the cause. The site was purchased from Hajji Haruna Mulangira, and the sanitation unit was built in 2004. The facility was built with 16 stalls enabling it to accommodate an average of 200 people each day.

Slum Dwellers International funded for the construction and with support from the SDI through the Kenyan federation, the community was trained to make construction materials. The management committee in charge of overseeing and monitoring the process was instituted. It was also replicated as a model sanitation unit in all regions of Uganda where the Ugandan National Slum Dwellers Federation has a presence.

With expanded access to toilets, appropriate waste disposal, and a community space for chairing meetings, the sanitation unit has undoubtedly improved sanitation. It also set a pattern among community members that communal concerns can be addressed with clear planning, organization, and cooperation. This is because the community contributed significantly to the development of the sanitation facility.

The interventions of community saving groups, as shown above, marked the beginning of a formidable National Slum Dwellers federation Uganda in 2002, and in 2006, ACTogether Uganda was established to technically guide and foster the aspirations of community members under the National Slum Dwellers federation of Uganda.

Since slum areas are experiencing a rapid population growth, a high return on investment is possible, for example, investing in health and sanitation would mean more meaningful child development and productivity, investing in education would result in more meaningful skilled labor, civilization and economic growth and investing in housing and livelihood would mean more harmony, less crime, and therefore more national security and solidarity.