In Bundibugyo, UNICEF restores water supply after floods

Addresses immediate and long term water needs of the communities

By Proscovia Nakibuuka Mbonye
Bundibugyo, floods, clean water, safe water, COVID-19, coronavirus, emergency supplies, water sanitation and hygiene, WASH supplies
UNICEF Uganda/2020/Adriko
22 July 2020

Saturday, 7 December 2019, will forever be remembered by the people of Bundibugyo District. The day started with heavy rains in the wee hours of the morning and quickly left many displaced after flash floods and landslides swept away their homes, farms, animals, roads, water facilities and buildings. Many communities lost their loved ones. What was left were deep gullies and residues of their belongings at the bottom of the slopes.

As huge stones and water gushed down the sides of the mountains, the gravity water systems that provided communities with clean water were also destroyed. 

Ismail Tusiime, the District Water Officer, believes the water sector was most hit. “Out of the 26 piped water systems, 21 were completely destroyed,” he says. As a result, 187,000 people – 65 per cent of the residents – were cut off from any form of water supply, sparking off a big water crisis in the district. 

Communities resorted to collecting water from rivers and swamps. With the rains that would not stop, the water in the rivers filled up with silt and became contaminated. The situation was dire.

Bundibugyo, floods, clean water, safe water, COVID-19, coronavirus, emergency supplies, water sanitation and hygiene, WASH supplies
UNICEF Uganda/2020/Adriko

At Liam River, you can only hear the noise from the flowing water as it fills the air. This was not the case a few months ago after the floods. According to Charles Baraba Mudau, chairperson of the borehole user committee in Bundingoma Central village, there was a daily hive of activity at this river. Villagers collected water for household use, others bathed in the river while many washed clothes on the banks.

“The water was contaminated but it was also the only source for the communities,”

Charles says.

UNICEF responds

UNICEF, with financial assistance from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (UN CERF), quickly responded by rehabilitating 23 non-functional boreholes across the district. The intervention addressed the immediate water needs of the communities. Now, all the boreholes are functional and provide enough clean and safe water to communities. “What a relief this was,” Ismail says. “After the massive destruction of homes and livelihoods, the communities were so close to catching diseases,” he notes.

Additionally, UNICEF supported the district to restore three gravity flow schemes that can provide water to communities that were not reached by the boreholes. Priority was given to schemes that covered large populations. All the systems have been completed and today, communities worry less about water scarcity. The water is available all the time and is very near to their homes.

Bundibugyo, floods, clean water, safe water, COVID-19, coronavirus, emergency supplies, water sanitation and hygiene, WASH supplies
UNICEF Uganda/2020/Adriko

Voices from the water users

In Bundingoma Central village, mothers and children gather at the borehole to collect water. This is one of the boreholes rehabilitated with UN CERF funds through UNICEF. The children drink some water in the scorching sun as they pump the borehole. Up and down they swing. 

The mothers speak of the suffering they endured to collect water from Liam River before the borehole was fixed. The river was located at the bottom of a steep hill three kilometres away. “Due to the distance and terrain, I fetched water once a day and used it sparingly. I prioritized cooking. Other activities like bathing and washing clothes were not a priority,” says Mariselina Chika, a mother of 13 children. With the new water source, she and her children fetch water more than three times a day and they have plenty of it at home for all family and household needs.

“This borehole water is clean and sweet. The river water was very dirty and very far. This water is near,” said Oliva Bakaswala, as she prepares to lift her water container.

The borehole currently benefits at least 135 households and has saved many from using and drinking contaminated water. 

Bundibugyo, floods, clean water, safe water, COVID-19, coronavirus, emergency supplies, water sanitation and hygiene, WASH supplies
UNICEF Uganda/2020/Adriko
Bundibugyo, floods, clean water, safe water, COVID-19, coronavirus, emergency supplies, water sanitation and hygiene, WASH supplies
UNICEF Uganda/2020/Adriko

Altogether, the water facilities restored with UNICEF support are providing sufficient amounts of clean water to more than 45,000 people. Water user committees have been selected for each water source and communities are responsible for maintaining the water facilities. Some communities have gone ahead to construct barriers around the boreholes to protect them from destruction by animals.

“The communities guard their water facilities jealously,”

Ismail says.

In December 2019, Bundibugyo District was hit by floods that destroyed homes, crops, roads and infrastructure. The water sector was most hit. Out of 26 water schemes, 21 were destroyed. About 187,000 were cut off from any form of water supply. Communities resorted to rivers for water. It was unsafe and contaminated. UNICEF with financial support from UN CERF, responded to address the immediate and long term water needs of communities through rehabilitation of 21 non-functional boreholes and restoration of 3 water gravity flow schemes. Today, communities have access to sufficient water.