While the services sector slowed as the Covid-19 outbreak and prolonged lockdown dampened consumer sentiment, civil society organizations working in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector had reasons to celebrate.
They managed to navigate the difficult terrain and continued to support communities to have access to clean water, live in a clean environment and conserve the environment.
They have also pumped Shs 96 billion worth of investment in the sector in the last final year 2020/21 according to the report presented at their annual forum last week in Kampala.
The money, largely from donors, was spent on cleaning water sources, repairing wells, boreholes, building new water network systems, storage and sanitation facilities, the report found.
Furthermore, the report shows that more than two million Ugandans in nearly 12,000 villages and urban centres have accessed clean water through these investments.
Yunia Yiga Musaazi, the executive director of the Uganda Water and Sanitation NGO Network (UWASNET), said the breakthrough has seen a 28 per cent increment in investments from the previous financial year.
“We appreciate government for giving us space to work. Civil society organisations’ investments are clearly making significant contributions; however, the challenge is still massive requiring concerted efforts, innovation and renewed commitments as well as partnerships,” Musaazi remarked.
She added that resource mobilization and developing appropriate solutions remain critical to bridging the gap towards realizing water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) service delivery targets.
Currently, 60 per cent of Ugandans have unlimited access to clean water and sanitation services. The Luzira-based UWASNET secretariat compiled the 2020/21 performance report based on field work statistics from 130 NGOs operating in water, sanitation and hygiene activities all over the country.
Speaking at the annual forum held at Golf Course hotel in Kampala, state minister for Water Aisha Sekindi applauded UWASNET and its donor partners for delivering services despite the prevailing Covid-19 challenges.
Sekindi, who is also Woman MP for Kalungi district, challenged fellow legislators to consider apportioning more money towards financing the water and sanitation sector.
Another technical official from the ministry of water and environment, Eng Joseph Oriono Eyatu, who is the acting director of the directorate of water development, explained the government’s current water tariff plan. In their report, NGOs asked government to review the current water charges, especially for rural areas where the tariff is deemed to be high.
However, Eyatu argued that the current charges are ‘quite reasonable.’
In rural areas, the government expects every household to pay Shs 2,000 per month.
Eyatu explained: “This (tariff) is quite reasonable because they are free to collect the water from the point source as much as they need for use at home. For the urban poor, we currently charge Shs 25 per jerrycan (both at National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) public taps and Umbrellas) but then those who have house connections the tariff varies depending on the area…. I think NWSC charges between Shs 360 and 370 per cubic metre … that’s about 50 jerrycans, and then for the umbrella it's slightly lower. And that’s tariff we advocate for… because they are regulated tariffs approved by the minister and they through a number of calculations to find out how much is necessary to operate and maintain.
“One thing you should be clear is that the current tariff does not meet the capital development cost, it only meets the cost of operation and maintenance in line with the policy of government, so, whatever we are charging is just to meet the cost of repairing those facilities and minor extensions, the major cost is still met by the taxpayer.”
He added: “It’s also worth noting that these tariffs are not high because, in the absence of a water system which is operational, we tend to buy water more expensively … sometimes as high as Shs 1500 per jerrycan so you cannot compare it with you paying Shs 50 or 60 per jerrycan when the system is facilitated so it’s better, we work collectively as a community, a town and a water supply system and we pay that Shs 50 because if it's not there then we will be forced to walk a longer distance and even pay more.”
He said government cannot afford to subdize the tariff further as they need more money to cover 30 per cent of the population without water services.