Ugandan government falls short on sanitation and hygiene

A visit to a number of Uganda’s public hospitals will reveal shocking sanitation and hygiene facilities, which are putting people’s health at risk.

A visit to a number of Uganda’s public hospitals will reveal shocking sanitation and hygiene facilities, which are putting people’s health at risk.

Patients have to use washroom and toilet areas which often have no soap or functional water supply for hand washing. For people living with HIV, particularly those who’ve developed AIDS and whose immune systems are poor, bad sanitation and hygiene can have a particularly devastating impact on their health.

Grace Kanweri a programme officer working with the Network for Water and Sanitation Uganda says: “All diseases related to hygiene are opportunistic diseases capable of affecting people living with HIV. And if people living with HIV get typhoid or cholera it affects them acutely.”

Poverty and sanitation challenges

With around 24% of Uganda’s population living below the poverty line, hospitals are not the only problem. The reality is sanitation remains a challenge for many people who lack facilities and have to practice open defecation. Hand washing is also a huge test for many Ugandans.

The 2012 sector performance report from the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment indicates access to hand washing in rural areas is estimated to be as low as 27% and access to facilities in majority of the primary schools is as low as 35%. It also points out that the poor population in Uganda bears the burden of inadequate sanitation, with resulting health costs constituting a much greater portion of their income than that of wealthier people.

The Global Poverty Project notes: “Sanitation continues to remain one of the key health issues in the developing world: 2.5 billion people, over a third of the world’s population, lack access to adequate sanitation facilities, perpetuating disease.”

Working towards healthier environments

In Uganda, people living in poverty are at greater risk of HIV and are also more likely to live in unhygienic environments, which only increases health threats.

Isabella Atim a student at Nsamizi Institute of Social Development says: “Including good sanitation and hygiene in HIV programmes reduces the spread of other diseases like diarrhoea. It therefore creates the opportunity for people living with HIV to live a healthier life.”

Despite the government’s attempt at promoting sanitation and hygiene little has been achieved in this area. Emmanuel Okurut, a Ministry of Water and Environment official, points out: “There is need for more hygiene and sanitation staff, and more funds for software activities.”

Currently, the budget allocation towards alleviating this challenge is negligible, hidden in the 3% allocation to the water, sanitation and hygiene sector, in which water supply is dominant. Fred Matyama notes in a Water Aid Uganda case study in 2013: “Despite the important high-level commitments made by the Ugandan government, financing, particularly for sanitation and hygiene, is falling short of the required investment.”


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    david olupot 3 years

    Hospital and schools need to be improved on both sanitation and hygiene we other can work togerther for oneness of health thank you
    David olupot pallisa district