The dark silhouetted figure of a lanky Karamojong warrior suddenly appeared in our way along the path leading to Natapari village in Nabilatuk sub county, Nakapiripirit district, one of the two sub counties that benefited from the MTN 2013 Marathon water project.
At the water point, a modern borehole spewing out clean and safe water, a horde of dirty kids and a lone one-armed elderly woman were noisily quenching their thirst. As they took turns to pump the water, the warriors under the tree take quizzical watch over their precious miracle pump, a much prized asset that has happened to the village in the recent years.
For Apuun Maritina who is nursing an amputated right arm, the bore-hole is God sent. She said before the borehole was drilled she used to go down the swamps, over three kilometers from her manyata to fetch dirty water, for which she would be asked to pay Ugx 1000.
Unlike in the recent years, the warrior had a long stick instead of a gun slung across his neck as he took long strides towards a large tree, a few meters away from one of the newly constructed boreholes where half a dozen other warriors who had already taken their seats. As he steps aside to give way to the 4WDs to pass, a traditional Karamojong stool peeped out of his suuka.
“I have not stopped thanking God for this borehole. Now I can come anytime and get clean water for my household. This is indeed a blessing to this village for which we are very grateful to the people who thought of us as beneficiaries of this project”, she said as she stretched her left palm to scoop another handful of clean water which she drank with relish, oblivious of the stump that is left of what used to be her right hand.
It is evident that the borehole is not only important to Maritina and the children. Lokol who had already taken his position under the tree with other warriors said:
“We come here every morning and take our seats under this tree to guard over our water source lest some strangers come and destroy it. It is within our will to guard it day and night to ensure its longevity for the good of our children, mothers, wives and livestock”.
In a region largely dominated by pastoralists who do nothing else other than graze cattle, hunger has become synonymous with the communities. Most people make do with one meal a day, explaining why a clean source of water such as this borehole means a lot to the people here. In Lokol’s words, now the communities can at least afford to drink safe water to take them through the day.
Following the 2013 Marathon, MTN Uganda and its partners including Huawei Uganda, New Vision, Stanbic Bank and Rwenzori Water handed over the UShs. 400 million collected during the MTN Kampala Marathon to Water Aid Uganda to implement a 6 months water project in Nakapiripit- part of the Karamoja sub region and deliver safe and clean water to the people of Karamoja.
The selection of Nakapiripit districtas beneficiary was made after the evidence from Uganda Bureau of Statistics -UBOS poverty map and primary data indicated that more than 80% of the people in the district were living below the poverty line. A full needs analysis was carried out by Water Aid Uganda to ensure that the neediest villages in Karamoja would benefit from this water project.
The Uganda Human Development Report 2005 (UNDP 2005) ranked Karamoja Region as the second last in the country Human Development Index of 0.24 where high levels of poverty were attributed to frequent drought and insecurity. The two beneficiary Sub Counties Moruita and Nabilatuk in Nakapiripirit that were selected due to the fact that they have the least water coverage of 34% and 46% respectively.
WaterAid was also tasked to monitor sanitation and hygiene among the communities and engage them through hygiene education and promotion activities including drama shows, village improvement campaigns, and household hygiene and sanitation follow-ups in 8 villages.
The Nakapiripirit Water Aid Uganda Project Coordinator Anne Lukune said the other components of the project included conducting of two community competitions as part of demonstration of best practices in sanitation and hygiene, capacity building for Community Based Monitoring Systems (CBMS) , Construction of 4 School sanitation facilities, training school health clubs, SMCs and teachers in improvement of school sanitation and hygiene and procurement of 50 hygiene and sanitation tool kits (Spades and pick axes) for aiding household latrine construction all of which is expected to benefit close to 10,000 people.
According to Lukune, 18 boreholes have been constructed across the two sub-counties and most of the work has been done. In addition, eighteen water committees have been formed in coordination with the District Local government officials to be trained on best hygiene and sanitation practices.
Milly Okwi, WaterAid Hygiene and Sanitation Coordinator said they are working closely with the district Local government committee to sensitize the communities on proper hygiene practices. Tonny Okullu, the District Internal Security Officer (DISO) who chaired the joint meeting at the district headquarters said authorities have embarked on law enforcement to ensure proper hygiene practices are observed by the Karamojong.
“We are currently working with Police to arrest all those found defecating in the open space. As a result of this enforcement, Latrine coverage in the district has gone up to 14% from almost zero in the last two years.
Okullu thanked MTN and partners for choosing Karamoja as beneficiaries of the water project adding that their efforts will never go to waste is the most deserving given the low literacy levels and lack of proper hygiene and sanitation practices.
Speaking about the project, MTN Uganda’s GM Corporate Services Anthony Katambareiterated that MTN Uganda was committed to continue partnering with other Corporate Companies and with the Government of Uganda as developmental partners to spearhead life changing initiatives
Katamba added;“We take pride in the fact that every participant who took part in the 2013Marathon whose theme was run for Water, joined hands with MTN to make a difference in the lives of the people of Karamoja.At MTN, we have over the years dedicated ourselves to the cause of improving the society we live in by harnessing the passion that we as Ugandans have within ourselves. We have done this through many avenues, but one of my personal favorite is the MTN Kampala Marathon”.
As MTN and partners prepare to officially commission the 18 boreholes in Nakapiripirit next month, it is evident that the life of Lokol Peter and his kinsmen in Natapari village, have positively changed, just like that of other communities where the water sources have been installed.
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