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The 200 Mile House

Not just for drinking: water programs in northern Uganda help communities rebuild

In rural areas of northern Uganda, most homes are made of mud bricks, and without water nearby, people have to travel for miles just to get the water to construct them.

Take Ongero Moses, a father of six who lives in the village of Omerkol. Ongero fled to the town of Lira with his family in 2001 because of armed conflict. After scraping by working as a casual laborer and motorbike taxi driver for several years, Moses and his family returned to Omerkol in 2008.

"When the [well] is completed, it will mean we’ll have safe drinking water, more and better houses, and improved sanitation and general hygiene." —Ongero Moses, Omerkol, Uganda

Even though the family was glad to be home, rebuilding their lives in the village was difficult. “There was no garden to cultivate, no crops to grow, and very little money to buy food,” Ongero said. In their absence, the village wells had dried up, and the nearest source of water was four miles away. “Even washing our clothes is a challenge, and scabies and waterborne diseases such as diarrhea are common,” he said.

Without enough water to make bricks, Ongero and his family were forced to live in two makeshift straw huts, each just 30 square feet. To build a permanent home, it took Ongero 25 eight-mile trips over eight months to collect the 1,000 liters of water needed. Each trip, which involved cycling to the well, waiting for his turn, and filling his jerry-cans with water, took about four hours.

Now Action Against Hunger is drilling a well on a nearby plot of land, which means that Ongero’s neighbors should be able to collect all the water they need to build their houses in less than a day.

“When the [well] is completed, it will mean we’ll have safe drinking water, more and better houses, and improved sanitation and general hygiene,” Ongero said. “My children will have clean uniforms and clean bodies. And not just my children, but all the children in the village. Our lives are really going to improve.”

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