ZOMBO. On a sunny Friday, Cosmo Arukani, a 15-year-old boy joined his friends to fetch water at a shallow well in Acoro village, Jupamato parish, Akaa Sub County in Zombo district.

Like any other resident, Arukani waited for the water to first settle before he pushed his jerrycane in to the well.

He says it is the habit at the shallow well that when a resident fetches water, the next person has to wait for it to first settle before pushing in his or her jerrycane.

But to have a jerrycane filled up; one has to go to the well with a cup or any other utensil to top up the water drawn.

Currently there are two shallow wells serving 75 households with an estimated population of over 500 people in Acoro village.

The residents resorted to using the water from the wells for drinking, cooking and for other domestic purposes after deserting the only spring water source in the village on grounds that it discharges black warns.

Reports indicate that it is now five years since the residents shunned the spring water which was constructed on October 31, 2006.

According to the World Health Organization domestic water quantity and quality is an important aspect which influences hygiene and public health.

Alfred Omirambe 25 a resident of Acoro villageAlfred Omirambe, 25, a resident of Acoro village drinks water from the shallow well using his hands, saying it is normal for them. PHOTO BY ANDREW COHEN AMVESI

Residents speak out

Ms Grace Irachan, 40, a mother of eight says without the two shallow wells, life would be harder for them.

She explains that from the time black warms started coming out of the spring water, residents lost interest in using the water with only few residents who would go for it for purposes of bricklaying and non domestic activities.

The spring water yield is also so little that it takes a lot of time to fill a container thereby keeping people at the water source for long hours.

However the residents drink the water from the wells without boiling or treating it for contamination.

“I’m used to drinking water without boiling it,” Ms Irachan says.

The situation is not any different for Ms Esther Akello, another resident who believes that boiling water before drinking is wastage of time and firewood.

“My family members drink water soon after fetching from the shallow well. Some of my children even run to the well and drink water directly from there using their hands and others go with cups,” she says.

Ms Akello discloses that whenever it rains, the shallow wells get submerged by the downpour, forcing them to ration the little water fetched before the rains until the water levels recedes.

She urged government to come to their aide by sinking boreholes in the village for easy accessibility of clean water.

In backing her up, Mr David Cwinyai, 39, expressed worry of their health and that of their children as a result of the lack of clean water for home use.

Alluding to so many cases of abdominal pain among children, women, youths and some men in the village, Mr Cwinyai believes the contaminated water they drink is the cause.

He says residents who normally fall sick trek for about 7km to Amwonyu health centre II, the only health facility in Akaa Sub County where the cases are normally managed from.

Coupled with the negative attitude towards washing hands after visiting toilet, Cwinyai fears that Acoro village could be facing a looming risk of cholera outbreak if authorities don’t take action to improve on water, sanitation and hygiene of the area.

Mr Etien Okumu, the Acoro village chairperson expressed frustration revealing that his office has been sending reports on the bad water situation in the village to Akaa Sub County without response.

Mr Etien OkumuMr Etien Okumu, the Acoro village chairperson.

The health impact

According to Ms Jennifer Asuru, the acting in charge of Amwonyu health centre II, cases of water related diseases are overwhelming health workers at the health facility.

“Most of our patients come with complaints of abdominal pain but since the health facility does not carryout tests of Typhoid, Bilharzia and other diseases that require laboratory examinations, they are normally given Flagils, Panadol and Albendazol and thereafter referred to Zeu Health centre III in Zeu Sub County for further management,” Asuru explained.

Ms Asuru says Amwonyu health centre II registers 30 to 50 cases of acute diarrhoea every month and the number even shoots higher during the rainy season.

Officials’ take

Mr Walter Onyira, the Akaa Sub County Chief pegs the failure to provide adequate source of clean water in Acoro village to lack of funds but added that the sub county is committed to doing everything possible to ensure that there is safe and clean water for the people.

He says the Sub County only had sh4m for repair and maintenance of sources of water last year which could not allow them to cover all the villages.

“We are now mobilizing the community in the village to fill application forms so that they can get a borehole this financial year,” Mr Onyira said.

Mr Felix Orom Obedling Amuda, the Akaa Sub County chairman said the ominous clean water shortage in the sub county is as a result of the breakdown of gravity flow water scheme on Akaa hill.

“Due to carelessness of our people, the gravity water scheme got spoilt but now I’m going to work hard and make sure we repair the water system. We are also going to begin checking the water pipelines to restore water for the residents,” he promised.

Zombo district position

According to Mr Peter Jawotho Sumba, the Zombo district assistant water officer, Akaa Sub County is one of the Sub Counties with low clean water coverage.

He said as a district, their clean water coverage stands at 87 percent with latrine coverage of 88 percent.

But Akaa Sub County, predominantly inhabited by the Lendu minority tribe and located on the fringes of the Uganda-DR Congo border has one of the least coverage with Acoro village having no clean water source at all.

The deserted Acoro water springThe deserted Acoro water spring. PHOTO BY ANDREW COHEN AMVESI

“It is good that you have been on ground in person. Now I’m going to call the Community Development Officer (CDO) of Akaa to assess the situation for immediate action,” Mr Sumba replied in a telephone interview on Saturday.

He says he was going to include Acoro village on the list of the villages to get boreholes this financial year.

Mr John Bosco Okaka, the Zombo district deputy chief administrative officer advised that the CDO and health assistant should mobilize the residents to contribute some money and sign a memorandum of understanding with the Sub County authority to show readiness that they will maintain a borehole.

Zombo district received shs297m under water and sanitation department for drilling a total of ten boreholes, paying salaries, office management and for handling the software component.