When we first arrived at Goan Quarters in Kasubi, Uganda, we were greeted by 20 members of the local community who were eager to work with us to solve their water problems. Unlike many of the areas we work, distance was not the main issue. Okwonga Robert Ayol took us to see the water source he and other community members were using. It was a nearly stagnant stream, just a short walk away.
There were open drainage pipes that emptied sewage directly into the stream and human waste is clearly visible in the water. The smell of sewage hung in the air. We did not even need to test the water to know that it was harmful and unsafe for drinking or even cleaning.
This problem had been going on for well over a decade. In fact in 2010, a research team from Gulu University studied the water source in Kasubi Goan and declared the water unsafe for drinking. They had suggested the community treat the water with chemicals before consuming it, but the community did not have access to any such chemicals.
Rose Okee and her family live closest to the water source. She tells us the stench from the open sewage is almost unbearable. She also lets us know that she sometimes even sees babies’ diapers in the stream, and she is unwilling to drink even her tap water because it is drawn directly from the stream.
The community was excited once they knew we were there to drill a well. During our visit, they let us know often how grateful they are, making it clear they will be active in both helping us build the well and with upkeep. Otunu Collins puts it beautifully – he says when someone gives you a cow, it is not on them to feed it. You show your appreciation for the gift by taking care of it and nurturing it.