Students and researchers from Makerere, Aalto and Helsinki Universities are developing innovations jointly with school children to address Water, sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) challenges in select schools in the Acholi sub-region of Northern Uganda, under the UniWASH project.
The project involves researcher from CEDAT who include; Dr Venny Nakazibwe, Dr. Michael Lubwama, Dr Richard Kabiito, Mr Raymond Nsereko among others.
Today, teams from UNICEF, Makerere University, Private sector, Ministry of Water and Environment, Ministry of Education and Sports convened in the CEDAT Conference Hall to review the progress of the project.
Dr. Nakazibwe in her remarks thanked the project partners who include UNICEF, SMEs in Acholi sub-region, Aalto and Helsinki Universities as well as the government for the support offered towards the implementation of the project.
She noted that the exchange of ideas between academic staff and students of the three collaborating universities a multi-disciplinary manner has presented the research team with enormous opportunities of learning new ways of thinking and doing things. “It has also presented new opportunities of solving problems as well as innovation. The university is grateful to have its students on board. The researchers have come up with suggestions on how to improve water quality, sanitation and hygiene,” she added.
The students have redesigned a toilet floor, after discovering that the current toilet floors don’t allow for flow of urine, leading to stagnation.
Launched in 2014, the project commenced with a Situation Analysis by a joint team from Makerere and Helsinki Universities, to identify WASH issues in selected schools and control schools. Three school, namely Purongo Hill in Nwoya District, Pabo in Amuru District and Lacekocot in Pader District, were selected, having scored low on all WASH indicators.
Since 2014, the students have worked with the children, parents, teachers, communities and the Private Sector to design local solutions to address WASH challenges in the schools, and to contribute to the overall project goal of ensuring that girls’ and boys’ right to clean and adequate sanitation and hygiene conditions in the Acholi sub-region, are fulfilled.
Investments in WASH have a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of the population, while the World Bank Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) 2012, estimates that Uganda loses 389 billion Uganda Shillings (about USD$130.5m) which is equivalent to 1.1% of GDP every year due to poor sanitation.
In addition, increased investments in WASH, address water and sanitation-related illnesses like diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid, cholera and hepatitis that kill hundreds, especially children, who are most vulnerable. Improved WASH in schools also translates into increased enrollment and attendance rates.
Under this innovative public, private and academia (UniWASH) partnership, UNICEF, academia, private Sector, children and communities are developing innovative WASH solutions that will improve the lives and wellbeing of the most disadvantaged children, as well as ensure that more and more children in Northern Uganda, enroll and complete school.
The students on the project include those from Anthropology, Mechanical and Civil Engineering, Art and Design and Public Health. The researchers are working with Small and Medium Enterprises in Acholi sub-region to explore the option of treating the fecal matter for purposes of using it as fertilizer.
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