Reports of homes and institutions, especially in rural areas and slums in urban areas that do not have toilets or properly constructed pit-latrines, are not new. However, common occurrence does not lessen the severity of poor hygiene. With lack of toilets, human waste is disposed of in polythene bags that are dumped in the bushes, roadsides, or even at water sources. This subsequently leads to outbreaks of diseases that thrive due to poor hygiene such as dysentery, cholera, typhoid, and diarrhoea.
These outbreaks often get out of hand, causing avoidable deaths; the recent typhoid outbreak in Kampala and neighbouring districts being a good example. And now that the rainy season is here, it is important to promote sanitation as a key preventive measure.
According to WaterAid UK, more than half the population in Uganda lack safe toilet facilities. In 2012, statistics from the Ministry of Health indicated that 11.2 million people in the country do not have pit-latrines.
Kasese District was hit by cholera two weeks ago. The outbreak was confirmed at the Uganda-DR Congo border town of Mpondwe-Lhuburiha where 16 patients were admitted to Bwera Hospital. In a move to fight poor hygiene, Kasese District authorities have resorted to punishing residents who do not have pit-latrines and other sanitary facilities. The district secretary for social services, Mr John Businge, revealed that residents affected by cholera because of failure to construct a pit-latrine are punished as soon as they complete treatment and are discharged from hospital.
The culprits are charged with family neglect, being a public nuisance and are sent to prison or fined.
Ideally, construction of toilets should not be by coercion; it should be common sense that every household should have one. However, where common sense and sensitisation fail, then force may have to be applied to achieve the common goal of hygiene and sanitation as is the case in Kasese District. Many other districts have come up with sanitation bylaws; however, implementation and sustainability are still a problem.
It is important that every district develops a strategy to fight poor sanitation habits and in turn prevent diseases caused by poor hygiene. Government should support leaders in various districts to be able to implement their respective strategies. As punitive action is taken against culprits, sensitisation drives should continue in a bid to achieve the common goal of every household having a properly constructed pit-latrine.
The issue: Poor sanitation
Our view: Ideally, construction of toilets should not be by coercion, it should be common sense that every household should have one. However, where common sense and sensitisation fail, then force may have to be applied to achieve the common goal of hygiene and sanitation.