Make Water and Sanitation Rights A Reality-WASH CSOs

Make Water and Sanitation Rights A Reality-WASH CSOs

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As clearly stipulated by the United Nations “Water and Sanitation is a human right”. The realization of this right should translate into equitable access to clean and safe water for all, in adequate quantities, without compromised down time. This assertion was reaffirmed and its practicality in Uganda strongly interrogated on 25th June 2016, when Uganda Water and Sanitation NGO Network, a consortium of over 250 NGOs in the water sector and a DGF partner convened over 120 delegates at the 5th National CSO Fair .The parallel session, which  was dubbed “ Make Water and  Sanitation Rights a Reality”, was graced by dignitaries from the National Planning Authority, Ministry of Water and Environment, Parliament of Uganda, the World Bank, Civil Society organization in the Water and Environment sector and the general public.

A key note presentation delivered by Vincent Operama of the National Planning Authority gave participants a head start and relevant background to the general planning framework that guides service delivery in the Uganda. A logical context was shared outlining Uganda’s progression from the National Development Plan 1 to the NDP II, within the guidance of constitution and Vision 2040, which has equally been aligned to the sustainable development goals. Most significantly, the presenter underscored government’s current move away from output based projects to results based Programmes. He advised civil society to tread the same course of action.

The parallel session featured a rich mix of high level addresses, supporting presentations, plenary questions and discussions and ample feedback. Notably, the session dissected the challenges that border the functionality of rural water facilities, in light of 65% stagnation in access by the rural population for the past 4 years. Governance of the water facilities emerged as a fundamental challenge that requires urgent attention. Jane Nabbunya, the Country Co-ordinator of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council fronted the need for optimal utilization of Water User Committees (WUCs), the community based water management structures. In the face of declining voluntarism among communities, and the downside of this challenge being reduced water user fee collection, the safety of which has equally become a concern. She strongly recommended revamping the structures and placing women at the helm of managing the user funds. She further pressed that the structures be organized around Village Loans and Savings Associations and linked to banks for value addition and sustainability. For enhanced accountability, the Water User Committees should equally be associated to sub county water user associations and water boards.

Menstrual Hygiene Management in schools crowned the session’s discussions. Parliament’s effort to provide emergency sanitary towels to school girls was recognized as a good move. However, there were calls to root and buffer this with sustainable integrated and holistic approaches to hygiene management, development of equity focused policies and strengthened partnerships and inter-linkages between government agencies that lead in sanitation service delivery. Exploitation of the potential in sanitation through technological and business innovations was equally deliberated upon. The efforts of CSOs like Water for People in modeling technologies and coming up with constructive business innovations were upheld. Recommendations pointed towards enhanced knowledge sharing to bring on board other organizations especially on utilization of sanitation by- products for energy and agriculture.

In his closing remarks Musimenta Boaz, Directorate of Planning and Monitoring - Office of the Prime Minister appreciated the CSO Fair as a good initiative that enables CSOs show case their innovation works and contribution to the country’s development. He underlined the value in the issues discussed; recognizing them as building blocks for learning and ultimately change. He recognized Menstrual Hygiene Management as an issue that requires urgent tackling, so as to increase the girl child enrolment and retention in school. He added that Operation and Maintaince (O&M) of water facilities is contributory in ensuring water facilities are in workable conditions, the basis for which government had revised the O&M strategy. He urged the CSOs to monitor the workings of the policy.

The delegates were equally alerted on plans by the Office of the Prime Minister to institute a separate structure to counter the co-ordination challenges that have become evident in managing the sanitation challenges of the country.