More schools and health centres supported with WASH services in northern Uganda

UNICEF Uganda’s work improves access to clean water, basic toilets, sanitary pads and other good hygiene practices in refugee settlements and host communities.

By Alex Taremwa
Access to safe and clean water in health centres
© UNICEF/UNI315171/Adriko
21 February 2021

While handwashing was among the key priority interventions that the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced when COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, a 2020 joint monitoring programme on water supply, sanitation and hygiene by WHO and UNICEF reported that in Uganda, just 1 in 10 rural schools had a basic hygiene service.

In northern Uganda, the water problem was further emphasized in a 2020 UNICEF Uganda Gulu Field Report confirming that at least 85 per cent of the health centres had limited water supply due to lack of reliable water sources within their premises.

The tides have since changed as UNICEF Uganda’s work has improved access to clean water, basic toilets, sanitary pads and other good hygiene practices in refugee settlements and host communities.

Some of the key projects included rehabilitation with an upgrade to steel pipes 175 boreholes in the districts of Kiryandongo, Adjumani, Yumbe, Arua and Moyo districts, supported the rehabilitation of Kiryandongo Hospital water system and the construction of Uderu water scheme in Adjumani District fully incorporated with chlorine dosing unit.

Still in the West Nile sub region, UNICEF Uganda undertook design improvements of gender-friendly drainable latrines, handwashing stations and incinerators at 12 health centres and 38 schools – complete with toilets and bathrooms with suitable fittings for ease of use by pregnant women and women who deliver at the health centres while in schools, the girls’ washrooms are fitted with running water for menstrual hygiene management (MHM).

"The WASH facilities provided in these institutions require substantial amounts of water supply for handwashing, cleaning purposes and menstrual hygiene services in school. So for each of these facilities, an existing borehole has been upgraded into a mini-solar powered water system. Water is pumped to a raised tank tower from which water is distributed by gravity through a piped network to the various WASH facilities",

Paul Semakula, the WASH Specialist at the UNICEF Uganda’s Gulu Zonal Office.
Schoolchildren having a moment with water provided by UNICEF
© UNICEF/UNI315205/Adriko

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for handwashing facilities in schools cannot be underscored enough. UNICEF is committed to the promotion of handwashing practices at all times for the school pupils through the provision of Mass Hand Washing Facilities (MHWF) strategically positioned in the school quadrangle.

The UNICEF standard package for schools and health centre consists of soap, sanitisers, disinfectants, Aqua tabs for household treatment of drinking water, hand and foot-operated handwashing facilities and basic protective gear such as gloves.

Semakula noted that due to the government announcement to re-open schools in a staggered manner, Infection Prevention Control-WASH supplies are currently being dispatched to 121 schools in West Nile and 35 health centres in Adjumani district.

“Even with this support, a lot more is needed for the many schools and health centres that are yet to be reached in the region,” he said. 

At a national level, 42 per cent of primary schools in Uganda still do not have access to water according to the Ministry of Education and Sports’ 2019 Education Abstract.