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Rebuilding Lives after the War in Northern Uganda

Families coming home after years in exile get clean water and basic sanitation

Action Against Hunger is helping restore stability to the lives of thousands of Ugandans returning to their communities for the first time in decades. After years of providing assistance in camps for people displaced by brutal conflict, our teams are following families back to their homes and helping them get back on their feet.

Northern Uganda has been wracked by nearly 20 years of armed conflict that forced some two million people into squalid camps. Since the fragile peace process began in 2006, many have returned home but are struggling without the resources to rebuild their lives.

"We set up a committee to be in charge of maintaining the [well] so that we wouldn’t have to keep calling on outside help." —Odyek Bosco, Akadikum, Uganda

Lack of clean water and sanitation infrastructure are major hurdles for communities trying to start over. Before families were driven from their homes, the village of Omerkol was a thriving community. Now, it’s barely scraping by with just 200 people. One reason so few residents have returned is the lack of water, explained Awio Tom Richard, the village head.

“The nearest [well] is about four miles away, which makes construction, farming and the rearing of animals very difficult, not to mention the lack of safe drinking water,” he said. “The only time we have water nearby is during the rainy season when we collect it from puddles, but the water is not safe and a lot of people get sick.”

Action Against Hunger is bringing clean water to Omerkol and other villages like it across northern Uganda. And, the organization is training community members in good sanitation and hygiene practices to prevent outbreaks of water-related illnesses.

“Before any interventions, we always do a baseline survey,” said Ocen Walter, a staff member with Action Against Hunger in the region. If no clean sources of water are found on the surface, a team drills to reach water underground. The demand for these services is enormous, and Action Against Hunger is one of the very few organizations in the region with the necessary technical skills and equipment.

The village of Akadikum benefited from a well drilled by Action Against Hunger last summer. Now most of the people from the village, plus some from a neighboring community, collect their water there for a small monthly fee, which Akadikum’s water committee uses to help maintain the source.

Action Against Hunger is committed to community participation, which helps ensure the longevity of the water resources. “We set up a committee to be in charge of maintaining the [well] so that we wouldn’t have to keep calling on outside help,” said Odyek Bosco, the village head.

During Action Against Hunger’s initial surveys, teams also interview residents about their daily habits, including storing their drinking water and cleaning cooking items.

"It’s easier to water our animals, to get water for construction, and the water we now drink is safe. Life has really improved a lot." —Gira Walter, Akadikum, Uganda

Then, they spend months training community members how to improve their health and sanitation and provide them with materials to build facilities like latrines, hand-washing stations, and trash pits.

“Before we had a proper latrine, I would have to go into the bush to find a private place, which could be difficult—especially in the rainy season,” said Santa Auma, a grandmother who lives in the village of Kidere. “And the same thing with the rubbish; before I would have to carry it all away from the compound to get rid of it. Now things are so much easier for me.”

Action Against Hunger returns to a community after the program is completed to follow its progress.

Gira Walter, an Akadikum resident, testified to the changes that have taken place. “People no longer have to walk far or be dependent on bicycles to carry the water, making it easy for them to bathe and wash their clothes. It’s easier to water our animals, to get water for construction, and the water we now drink is safe. Life has really improved a lot.”

These water, sanitation, and hygiene programs in northern Uganda are funded by the European Commission (ECHO).

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