Tuesday April 22 2014

Government should embrace improved technology

By Pascal Odoch

Recently, the government of Uganda negotiated and received credit facility from the International Development Association towards implementation of the Uganda Health Systems Strengthening Project (UHSSP). The UHSSP aims at utilising part of the credit facility for construction of pit latrines in what the financing agreement terms “Selected Health Facilities”.

I felt bothered by the stone-age approach to addressing present-day challenges. Moreover, government is in the final stages of inviting proposals from competent firms to bid for the construction of such out-of-fashion-human waste collection and disposal facilities.

When I was in the Kingdom of Lesotho in the 1990s, the countryside had what was termed Very Important Person (VIP) latrines that one would access at all homes, hospitals and educational establishments. The VIP latrine is a raised structure with wooden architecture of a flush toilet and does not prompt squatting at all; the VIP facility user sits on the toilet seat. In the traditional pit-latrine which the Uganda’s health credit facility wants to invest in, however, the user squats and obviously this is strenuous to the facility user depending on the minutes spent and his or her health condition.

Then there is the ecological sanitation (ecosan) technology which looks at human waste and wastewater as an opportunity for value addition. The ecosan provides synergy to Uganda’s economy whose mainstay remains agriculture. When properly designed and operated, ecosan systems provide a hygienically safe, economical, and closed-loop system to convert human wastes into nutrients to be returned to the soil, and water to be returned to the land. Alternatively, solid wastes are converted into a bio-fuel.

The primary application for ecosan systems has been in rural areas where connection to a sanitary sewer system is not possible, or where water supplies are very limited. Ecological sanitation reduce the health risks related to ground water; reuse of nutrients or energy contained within wastes among others.

What Ugandans will never know is why the country’s health bureaucrats continue to seek credit facilities to implement such shameful social investments they themselves opt not to use! This amounts to being insensitive and socio-economic transformation saboteurs.