For more than 20 years, close to 10,000 residents of Mahyoro and Bukurungu town councils in Kitagwenda District have been drinking contaminated water from sources that are also used by animals.
Kitagwenda was carved out of Kamwenge District in 2019, but due to its terrain that is largely mountainous, most parts have been without clean water. Other parts are in the lowlands towards Lake George, which experience seasonal floods, creating sanitation challenges.
The chairperson of Nyakeera Village in Mahyoro Town Council, Mr Charles Bagiritima, on Wednesday said the residents have been fetching contaminated water from Lake George, which exposed them to waterborne diseases.
He added that with the area being mountainous, people have been walking distances of more than two kilometres to get water.
But thanks to two gravity flow schemes, the residents now have reason to smile after getting access to clean and safe water.
The water is pumped from up the mountains and brought closer to the residents, who only have to pay as low as Shs100 for maintenance of the system.
Some of the villages that have benefited from clean and safe water include Mahyoro, Nyakeera, Kayinja, Kyedangara, Bukurungu, Iharagata and Kabaale I, II, III and IV.
Mr Bagiritima is now optimistic that after getting access to safe water, people will stop suffering from waterborne diseases.
“For the first time in history, we are getting clean and safe water, which is close to us. People have been spending a lot of money to treat waterborne diseases,” he said on Wednesday.
He also said their area was challenged with open defecation because of lack of toilets but now the households have been able to get eco-san toilets.
Mr Lawrence Byarugaba, another resident, said: “In this area, we have public places such as schools, churches and trading centres, which are now connected to safe water, and my appeal is that the whole district is covered with such water scheme for the safety of our people.”
Caritas Fort Portal - Hewasa and Protos, which are civil society organisations, helped to construct the water schemes in the district.
Mr Birungi Steven of Hewasa said their intervention came after seeing the people suffer with water-borne diseases.
He added that the six-kilometre Kayinja-Nyakeera water scheme worth Shs132m is fitted with an automated teller machine from where the public pays Shs100 for a 20-litre jerrican.
“On top of providing safe water to residents of Mahyoro Town Council, we have also constructed two solar-powered cattle water troughs away from the buffer zone of Lake George to stop the degradation of the lake by animals. The water troughs are worth Shs68 million,” Mr Birungi said.
The nine-kilometre Kayinja-Kyedagara gravity flow scheme worth Shs271 million is now supplying water to the parishes of Mahyoro, Kanyabikere, Kyedagara and other neighbouring villages with a population of about 4,000 people.
Mr George Bwambale from Protos, said the task is now left with the members of the community to maintain the water systems.
To improve the hygiene and sanitation of the area, Joint Effort Save Environment (JESE) has also set up more than 80 eco-san toilets, fish cleaning slabs, dustbins, and nursery beds worth Shs390 million in Bukurungu and Mahyoro town councils.
According to the Water Supply Atlas, access to safe water in Kitagwenda District stands at 87 per cent. The district has 996 domestic water points, which serve a total of 156,429 people. The district also has 23 water points that have been non-functional for more than five years.