It is relieving that district health leadership in Budaka in eastern Uganda in liaison with sub-county authorities have launched an operation to apprehend people without pit-latrines in their homes. Many people have been arrested in various villages. The district’s latrine coverage stands at a miserable 38 per cent.
Household sanitation and hygiene are some of the country’s most disturbing challenges today. But they have largely been neglected because of politics.
In the olden days parish chiefs and sub-county chiefs were empowered to arrest people who lacked toilets, drying stands for utensils or did not do community work such as maintaining community roads (bulungi bwansi), among others.
This was possible because the sub-parish, parish and sub-county chiefs were not elected. They were accountable to the appointing authority, the central government and would, therefore, not be held hostage by the fear of losing their positions during elections if they arrested community work defaulters.
But all this collapsed when the chiefs’ powers were literally taken away following the introduction of the elective local councils who fear to apprehend defaulters because they will need their votes during the next election. As a result, community works, hygiene and general basic sanitation in homes have gone to rot.
Local governments in other districts countrywide should emulate the Budaka precedent and resume enforcement of community sanitation services.
This will help stem the national incidence of diseases such as dysentery, cholera and diarrhea which are mainly caused by poor or lack of sanitation infrastructure for proper disposal of human waste. Poor disposal of human waste results in contamination of water sources and food thus increasing the risk of infection.
The central government should support and encourage the local governments to empower the appointed parish and sub-county chiefs to crack the whip on people and ensure improved hygiene and sanitation in homes.
This will improve people’s health and welfare at household level and help them live in a decent and healthy environment. It will also reduce the burden on government of treating people suffering preventable diseases which are mainly caused by lack of sanitation and hygiene facilities in homes.