Water Filter Project to improve the quality of water at Ogenda Girls Senior Secondary School in Nebbi District, Northwest Uganda

Fields of Life has the ambitious goal of providing one million people access to safe, clean drinking water by 2020. Especially in rural Uganda, adequate water and sanitation for many people is literally the difference between life and death. Uganda’s Water and Sanitation Programme statistics report that over 400 children die every week due to water and sanitation-related diseases such as diarrhoea, typhoid, dysentery and cholera. It’s estimated that annually $20 million is spent treating such diseases. Despite many of the water-borne diseases being preventable, only 20% of the population is routinely taking precautionary measures such as boiling water.

The major water problem in Uganda is not only the lack of water but the quality of drinking water that’s available from the various sources. With an average rainfall of 1200mm annually, 28 fresh water lakes, over 20 rivers, various swamps the majority of the population are able to access water. But the big challenge remains how to ensure that the quality of water is of the highest standards and is safe to drink. Although the government and civil society organisations have extended safe water facilities to many parts of the country, some of the areas are still lacking safe, clean drinking water. In some water-scarce areas, donors are discouraged from investing in drilling deep wells due to the high rate of failure. Drilling along river banks/lake shores and salty water is problematic due to sedimentary rock formations and mineral deposits.

Furthermore, the challenges of accessing adequate clean water for schools is extremely difficult because of the high water demands. In a needs assessment carried out by the FOL WASH Manager, Ogenda Girls Senior Secondary School in Nebbi District, Uganda was identified as requiring urgent attention. The school is a top priority because there is no nearby borehole and because of its location along the banks of the river Nile, boreholes would not be a practical option.

This results in the school and surrounding communities drawing water for domestic use from the contaminated river. Even after boiling the water, re-contamination occurs during the daily cycle of fetching from a water source (well or pond) and then storing the water before it is used. For example, most families share a common drinking cup that is dipped with unclean hands into the storage vessel and spoils the water. It is proven that this leads to the infection of millions with deadly waterborne diseases. The FOL Water Filter project aims to offer a workable solution to these water quality problems.

Benefits and goals of the project

  • Provision of safe drinking water to around 130 pupils and 20 teachers.
  • Provision of safe drinking water to 2,750 indirect local beneficiaries by end of the project
  • Raising awareness about safe drinking water, sanitation, water borne diseases and hygiene promotion among pupils, teachers and community.
  • Improving school’s sanitation and hygiene practices.
  • Relief from diseases like typhoid and cholera that cause suffering, school absenteeism and drop out, illness and even death.
  • Saving the very limited financial resources that are used for medical care and drugs to treat the waterborne illness. Most of the targeted families live on less than $1 per day, so the savings on medical treatment are significant.
  • Decreasing the environmental degradation associated with using charcoal from trees for boiling drinking water.
  • Decreasing the spending on charcoal to boil water. A large percentage of household income is used for purchasing charcoal to purify drinking water and women and children spend a big portion of constructive time searching for firewood in risky locations