20 liters a day

For many people there is not a day that goes by without using water. We take a shower in the morning, make coffee during breakfast, clean our clothes in the washing machine and wash our hands after using the bathroom. Can you imagine a day without water? I sure can’t… In Uganda an average household uses 20 liters per person per day. What we don’t realize every time we open the tap is that water isn’t available in all parts of the country. The lack of clean water usage leads to a lot of hygiene related health problems.

A life changer

In Uganda millions of people have access to a mobile phone. For Ugandans mobile phones seem to be more than a device used to communicate, rather they are a way of life. One single text message can make a big difference. Why not use this knowledge to improve the hygiene and access to sanitation facilities?

In 2013 NETWAS Uganda partnered SMSONE to set up their first SMS campaign in Bombo through the DANIDA funded good governance project. Here water users are able to communicate with the service provider through a sms text. So the initiative has reached over a hundred people who are able to send an sms through the toll free numbers.

How Can SMS Texting Increase the Impact of good governance in water supply?

In Uganda due to the very many phones springing up every year, voice calls and SMS texts are the most common means of communication. This is evidenced by the different telecommunications companies like MTN, UTL, WARID and others which have penetrated the market. In Uganda, approximately half of the country‘s districts are still below the national coverage of 64% which implies that very many people still don’t have access to improved water and sanitation.(SPR,2012).  Surprisingly, these vulnerable people are more likely to have a mobile phone instead of access to a clean toilet.

Year after year, the government struggles to provide growing populations with basic water and sanitation needs while mobile phones have become ambiguous in the developing world. Global statistics also indicate that most of the water problems today are as a result of poor governance in WASH. The low levels of accountability and transparency in the WASH sector have led to increase in number of broken pumps, contaminated water sources, unsafe water chains and so on.

Coordination of users with the service provider is vital to the success of ensuring sustainable service delivery. This document presents SMS as an effective channel of communication for water users and providers and how it can help in ensuring long term planning, monitoring, policy-making, and governance.

Getting high quality and useful information and knowledge to the community members has also been a problem. One of the main reasons for this is the lack of access to sources and channels of knowledge and information. But with the availability of mobile phones, radio spot messages within and availed to the communities, this process will allow increased dissemination of knowledge and information on WASH accountability.

3.0 Purpose of this Channel

The purpose of using this SMS channels is to introduce the rapidly growing use of mobile technology into activities that promote enhanced accountability in  WASH services provision, in particular by providing service users (e.g. citizens in general)  a greater voice in providing feedback on quality and quantity of services and support provided.

The issues to be addressed include among others: increased and facilitated communication, involve citizens that cannot afford expensive travel to offices to complain or ask for support, increased efficiency and effectiveness of services rendered, enhanced customer satisfaction among others.

Why an SMS?

During a household listing exercise and baseline survey, it was realized that most water users have access to mobile phones at their disposal than toilets.

The impact of SMS can be seen in almost every aspect of life, from teenagers’ fragmented attention spans, to presidential campaigns, to the ways victims of natural disasters seek relief.

SMS and mobile phones in general, get that one-to-one contact and engage rural, remote communities. Though it doesn’t have the best reach compared to the radio, thus there is need to combine the two, if we can reach out to the community and figure out what they’re thinking, what they’re saying, and put that on the radio so that it’s communities talking to communities in a localized manner to start more discussion, then it sparks more feedback through mobile phones. By using real voices and reports from communities, the service provider  is able to address the concerns and wants of the community and advocate for beneficiaries with a clearer idea of goals and need. SMS are effective and open channel of communication.

Expected Outcomes:

  • Enhanced efficiency and effectiveness of WASH services provided under governance of local government
  • Enhanced Town council level capacity to manage citizen’s involvement through mobile channels.
  • A rapidly increase in citizens involvement in providing feedback and monitoring of WASH services

Rainwater can help solve today ‘s world water problem

Harvesting rainwater

For many decades rain water has been one of the least recognized sources of water in world yet largely in abundance in many different parts of the world. In many parts of the world people move long distances looking for water which even in most cases is dirty and contaminated. This is mainly due to the fact little effort has been put in tapping this abundant source. Every year over 10000mm of rainfall is received but a lot of it flows away as runoff while little amount is used for human activities.

Falling rain can provide some of the cleanest naturally occurring water that is available anywhere. This is not surprising, as it is a result of a natural distillation process that is at risk only from airborne particles and from man-made pollution caused by the smoke and ash of fires and industrial processes, particularly those which burn fossil fuels. It is evident, therefore, that there is considerable scope for the collection of rainwater when it falls, before huge losses occur due to evaporation and transpiration and before it becomes contaminated by natural means or man-made activities. (Water Aid, technical brief)

Rain water is useful in a number of ways which include:

  • Recharging ground water
  • Agricultural uses like feeding animals, irrigation etc
  • Human consumption like drinking, washing etc

The mentioned uses above are only a few of the importance of this free and abundant source of water. The harvesting of rainwater as compared to other sources of water is the most cost effective. This is so because rainwater collecting materials like containers are cheap and affordable. The other reason is that it provides a supply of safe water close to homes, schools or clinics, encourages increased consumption, reduces the time women and children spend collecting water, reduces back strain or injuries from carrying heavy water containers. Collected rainwater can also be consumed without treatment provided a clean collecting surface has been used.

Although rainfall is associated with disadvantages like contamination from the collecting surface, if fully utilized and well harvested, it can help to tackle the water problem that exist in the world today.

The use of Multiple use services in developing the WASH sector

The Use of Multiple use services in developing the WASH sector.

There are different ways in which people use water. They use water concurrently for domestic purposes, cropping, gardening, gardening, livestock, fisheries and aquaculture, tree growing, food processing, brick making, market places, weaving, handcrafts and other small businesses.  However most water projects do not put these needs into consideration which leads to:

  • Small-scale productive uses, particularly at and around homestead
  •  Often not provided for
  •  And sometimes explicitly prohibited.

As consequences there are limited livelihoods options for users which hinder the ability to climb out of poverty reduced sustainability and performance of services. Hence a research was carried out it aiming at a concrete, integrated, poverty-reduction focussed approach to providing people with appropriate and sustainable water and sanitation services that meet their multiple water needs.

This approach is called ‘’multiple use water services or mus.’’ A mus approach addresses the challenges mentioned above by recognizing that people‘s water needs are integrated and are part and parcel of their manifested livelihoods, and that the necessity to better meet people‘s multiple water needs is a main driver for integration within the water sector itself.

Objectives of mus:

  • Users utilize water for productive activities and improve their economic situation
  • Service is improved encouraging demand for users
  • Users increase their capacity and willingness to pay for the service
  • Users have access to water at low cost and appropriate quantity and quality

It’s always good to put much focus on the future benefits and the water demand.

MUS as an approach

  1. Peoples multiple needs  as a starting point
  2. Service delivery approach
  3. Scales and levels
  4. Integration
  5. Institutional change to move beyond barriers

Levels of MUS

  • Homestead
  • Community
  • System
  • Technology

How to provide multiple use services;

  • Understand the  demand
  • Establish the appropriate technologies
  • There should enough finance
  • establish regulations like for community level institutions
  • create the easy access since level of activities depend on access to services

Achieving MUS:

  • Action research
  • Evidence based advocacy
  • Recognize multiple-use in management
  • Expanding institutional mandate of sector organizations, starting from each one’s mandate
  • Coordination between sectors
  • Multi-stakeholder approaches

Since access to water is right to every human being on the planet earth, mus approach tries to address the challenges and the way forward to a better service delivery.

MUS brings about sector learning

A lot of effort is needed to combat water and sanitation in slum areas.

5 October 2011

floods in Bwaise, Uganda

Investment in water and sanitation in the rapidly urbanising cities of the developing world is key if we are to avoid uncontrollable poverty and ever worsening slums, says WaterAid in a news report.

“If we continue the way, we are the gross inequality between rich and poor could be almost impossible to reverse. But there is an opportunity to turn things around if we act now.

“Water and sanitation have proved time and time again to be a critical factor in health and economic development.

Cities in the developing world are expected to double in population size every 15 years, and two thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2030. The vast majority of these people will end up living in unplanned slums, with little or no access to fundamental services such as water, sanitation and electricity.

Water and sanitation are fundamental to health and development, especially in densely packed urban areas, where outbreaks of diseases such as cholera can quickly turn into epidemics. At present the diarrhoeal diseases caused by a lack of safe water and sanitation are the biggest killers of children under 5 in Africa, more than HIV/Aids, malaria and measles combined. In South Asia it is the second biggest killer.

Current investment into water and sanitation in the slums is inadequate and is failing to reach the poorest and most vulnerable people. Only 6% of World Bank sanitation-related commitments from 2000-2005 went to slums, with the vast majority going to more established urban areas. The manifesto advises that to tackle urban poverty, the very poorest people need to be at the heart of water and sanitation investments and planning. They should also be encouraged to participate in the design and implementation of these plans.