Bukompe Refugee Camp: Water Crisis Brief

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In the 25 villages and 1650 households of Nalutuntu Sub County in Mubende District, Uganda, there is a complete lack of access to clean, safe water. 600 households in this group are refugees that were re-settled in this community by the government – coming from Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo in  early 2015.

Locals are forced to get water from stagnant surface water sources like ponds and dams that are contaminated, dirty and are shared with animals (cows, goats and sheep).  Animals visibly defecate in these water sources.  During dry season, these ponds dry up, so access to water becomes an even larger problem for the community. There are no boreholes or tapped water, not even inactive ones. The majority are unable to harvest water from their roofs because 98% of this refugee populations sleep in makeshift plastic tents, and grass thatched houses.

Refugee women and children walk between 4 – 7 kilometers every day to fetch water from these sources. When it is dry season, they walk even longer distances (reportedly over 15 km) to get water from the only stream in the neighboring community. Most of these carry water on their heads, with just a handful of them using bicycles to carry water in jerry cans from the ponds. This affects children’s school performance and can lead to physical and sexual abuse on the way to fetching water.

Worse still, over 70% of these refugees do not boil this water before drinking, nor do they have access to water filters that would disinfect the water. This has resulted in illnesses like cholera, diarrhea, typhoid and Bilharzia that disproportionately impact children in the camp.

The refugees also lack toilets for safe defecation in their camp. During a baseline study for the hygiene education project funded by the New York Foundation, VGIF, YICE (Youth Initiative for Community Empowerment) found out that 81% of the refugee community lacked access to a latrine. The additional 19% who indicated they had toilet facilities were using 10 uncovered pit latrines that were constructed by the community with support from YICE in 2015.

The rest practice open defecation in the bush and gardens, and when it rains, feces run into the open water ponds where people get drinking water.  Due to high levels of poverty and lack of water in the camp, most of the refugees do not wash hands after using toilet and a few who do, confessed to only using water without soap. This has resulted in serious sicknesses, with children and women being the most affected population. For example, according the local medical officer, 130 children suffered from diarrhea, typhoid, and cholera in last 4 months.

Proposed solutions:

  • Constructing a borehole for the camp would not only provide safe disease-free drinking water, but also keep the children in school (and avoid the physical/sexual abuse that occurs on the way to fetch water).
  • Constructing a well-built water dam for harvesting running water and training women in the community through YICE to maintain it.
  • Providing water filters to each household in the community.

ROIers who are interested in getting involved and helping Erin Zaikis clean up the water, reach out to Elissa at ROI and we'll connect you!

To learn about Erin's recent soap contribution following the ROI Summit, click here.