We started the day before the sun was up, ate a quick breakfast and drove straight to the base camp. The energy team went off to put the finishing touches on the weather station and the other teams began interrogating our trusty comrade, Dhiblawe (a HIJRA, Humanitarian Initiative Just Relief Aid, worker, who has been at the settlement for over a year), to get detailed info regarding the many water sources in the area.
At the weekly market, which is the main source of income for nationals and refugees in the area, we marched up a crowded alley and out into the main trading area where booths and paths carved up the hillside. Like good environmental engineers, we went straight to the latrines to take pictures and check conditions, which must have seemed very odd to the vendors who were setting up for the day. There are four ventilated pit latrines serving a market that sees thousands of shoppers in a day. At a cost of 200 shillings per use, for upkeep, soap and water, the latrines were simple. They did seem that they would meet the most basic sanitation needs of the market, providing the wait or cost were not prohibitive.
Continuing around the market, much to the interest of the locals, we stopped by the animal and solid waste disposal sites. The carcass-cleaning site, while a bit jarring at first, was well managed, and seemed to be sanitary. Any carcass created at this site was inspected for diseases prior to it’s sale at the market. The solids-disposal site, in the opposite corner of the market wasn’t safe or sustainable. The wastes, compostable and not, were piled six to seven feet high and had already started spilling into useful market space. After the main market, we trekked across the road into a smaller market where homes became shops for the day, blending into the refugee settlement.
Three stops, a natural spring, two health centers, and a hectic car ride running time-sensitive analyses later, we’d lost two of our fearless leaders, Jeremy and Lauren, who were off to Entebbe for their flights home. At this point all of our work at the refugee settlement was done, and we went back to base camp to another delicious lunch prepared for us and our partners. Full and refreshed, we drove up to the top of the mountain to follow up with the Omurutoma community, which had we met on Tuesday. I don’t need to talk here about the drives or the view, but this country is gorgeous. See some photo evidence below:
As you can tell from these photos, this area is remote. These people live a three hours walk away from the valley floor where water can be collected, to be carried back up. We split into groups, and between all of us we were able to visit seven different households, collecting water samples from several. The prevailing issue in this community is the lack of access to water. As beautiful as the landscape is, it is also the reason for much of the hardships these people have. Certain members of the community have a hard time making the three-hour trek to the valley floor and cannot pay for water to be brought to them. Not only is the trip demanding, but especially dangerous for women, who are prone to sexual violence and most often the ones collecting the water. Everyone in the community could benefit from the time, safety, and health an improved water source would provide. This was a recurring theme among the households we visited today; where water access was an issue, other issues became secondary.
It shouldn’t go without mentioning the warm welcome we received by all of the people we have interviewed. We have been invited to photograph and document very personal aspects of their lives and this has allowed us to better understand the issues faced by this community. The hospitality and graciousness of the people here have helped us make the most of this incredible opportunity. With our interviews done, we headed back to the hotel to make sense of the past two day’s samples.