The President will next month swear in for another five-year term in office with a pledge under the theme of “securing your future.” A sizeable amount of money will be spent on a ceremony.
Some 146km away from Kololo where the event is likely to take place, at least 5,700 citizens from Mayuge District in Busoga region will be following the events with much relief. Just last week, some residents graduated from open defecation to using pit-latrines.
Three electioneering terms ago, this government came up with a clever phrase, ‘Bona Bagagawale’ (let’s all get rich). But if events in Mayuge are to go by, it is as well that Bona Bagagawale passed like a false cloud.
Otherwise, how should this government explain to the citizens that at a time they are promising free internet for all, the best a total of 15 villages in Mayuge can have is securing their pit-latrines?
However, this is a milestone worth celebrating. When the villagers erect signposts notifying visitors that that they have reached an open defecation-free area, it is not only telling but also a reminder that sanitation and hygiene in the country has a long way to go before venturing into space technology even as a dream.
The authorities must not treat the Mayuge celebrations as an isolated case. There must be a thorough review involving all stakeholders in the hygiene and sanitation sub-sector to ascertain the state of their provision to the populace.
If in 2021 some villages are still celebrating the construction of pit-latrines, the government should be really concerned that there are likely many more villages in the country with millions of citizens squatting in the bushes to ease themselves daily.
It becomes unhealthy to talk of building a satellite station and going into space when we haven’t managed to get out of the bushes.
A simple VIP latrine with a three metre deep pit costs about $400 (Shs1.4m) in informal settlement areas. Shs7b, for instance, would alone construct 4,780 pit-latrines. Enough to cover the entire Busoga region.
And if the government can find the money for swearing in or dreaming of lofty space science, it surely can find enough to have stakeholders ascertain the true state of hygiene and sanitation in the country. And solving it, too.