SSPP/Kampala Slums WASH initiative

As part of a review undertaken in 2013/14 on how to improve the sustainability of the 3V Vets veterinary shops, IKARE looked at non-veterinary products with the potential to improve farmers’ livelihoods in the rural SOS districts. One of the products for potential distribution through the 3V Vets network which was the Solvatten unit. This is a 10-litre jerrycan which both purifies and heats water using solar energy and UV rays. In addition, it also contributes to lower CO2 emissions as it reduces the need to use charcoal to heat water. Not only does regular use of the Solvatten unit reduce water-borne diseases like cholera, diarrhea and typhoid, but it also reduces expenditure on charcoal/kerosene and medication and/or time spent on collecting firewood. Reducing fumes from cooking/heating has the additional positive health impact of reducing respiratory, skin and eye diseases. Minimising the use of kerosene, where used instead, in addition reduces the risk of burns caused by kerosene-infused accidents.

While only approximately 30% of the Ugandan population live in urban areas, over 40% of the estimated 1.8 million people in Kampala live in informal settlements or so-called slums like Kikoni and Bwaise, with poor sanitation and limited access to clean water sources. DCTs (diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid) and other water-borne diseases are frequent, with most households estimated to be continuously suffering from these diseases.

Students Support and Philanthropy Program, Kikoni Pilots 2014–16

Further to piloting the unit through the 3V Vets network, a number of Solvatten units were donated by IKARE to EUNISCA – the Students for Health coordinating council founded by Ian Calvin Waiswa. At the time a student at Makerere University, Ian later joined forces with his father, Professor Charles Waiswa (IKARE partner in the SOS Initiative) to found the Students Support and Philanthropy Program (SSPP) as part of the High Heights Initiative. Today SSPP is an independent Uganda registered NGO. 

Funded and supported by IKARE, SSPP in 2014 embarked on an initiative to improve WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) in a few communities in the Kikoni slum of Kampala. Working closely with community-based organisations (CBOs), they cleaned and repaired a number of wells and water collection points. The communities not only took increasing responsibility for the upkeep of these water sources, but also instituted by-laws imposing fines on those found littering them.
In parallel, 20 Solvatten units were distributed to 20 especially vulnerable families selected by the CBOs, typically single-mother households with many children. The units were also used in schools and at other locations to demonstrate the importance of clean and warm water. This was not only important for reducing water-borne diseases and improving hygiene in general, but also as a means to set up and improve small businesses like food kiosks, fruit-juice stands, hairdressers and barber shops, etc. These are all services that depend on clean, warm water to operate successfully

Outcomes and Impact
After six months, the 20 households reported an average reduction in cases of diarrhoea of 70%. When surveyed again in 2019/20, 18 households were still using (and safeguarding) these units. Many also gave their neighbours clean water. One family had moved so could not be surveyed, and one male household member was holding onto the unit as collateral for a potential loan rather than letting it be put to use. Value can be recognised in many ways…

Bwaise pilots and activities 2016–20

Based on the learnings from this pilot, the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) asked SSPP to undertake a larger pilot in the Bwaise slum area. This was carried out during 2016/17, simultaneously mapping close to 400 households to better understand their WASH practices and gaps in WASH awareness. Bwaise is home to approximately 90,000 people, with over 80% estimated to be surviving on less than US$2 a day.

Building on the learnings from the pilots, and working closely with the different community leaders and bringing in experts in health as well as local government representatives, SSPP has, over the past few years, organised a number of initiatives in Bwaise. These include so-called Slum Sanitation Days, school WASH clubs and raising awareness through drama group performances. Several of the skits have been videoed and are shown in community halls so that WASH sensitisation messages are repeated over and over again. Changing habits takes time and requires repeated nudging, as we all know from our own experience.

A continued challenge is how to find an efficient and affordable model of “turning tomorrow’s savings into today’s cash” to fund household and small business purchases of the Solvatten unit, thereby providing better self-sustainability and empowerment to even more households in this and other communities.

At the start of 2020, another 140 Solvatten units were distributed to 140 families selected by the local community leaders. This is a community-led WASH initiative supported by SSPP and IKARE which will be monitored for outcomes and impact over the coming three years.

Outcomes and Impact
In addition to funding these activities, IKARE has also provided capacity-building support to the SSPP itself, involving training as well as providing IT tools for improved data collection, book-keeping and reporting. Recognising the need for data and data-based targeted interventions, the SSPP co-founders during 2018 incorporated a for-profit subsidiary, Research Hub and Data Centre Africa (RHDCA).

More than 600 students across Ugandan universities are involved with EUNISCA and several of them have also been given the opportunity to volunteer with the SSPP and/or RHDCA and engage in various data collection and in-field WASH awareness activities.

The SSPP has, during 2019 and 2020, also hosted and collaborated on assignments with Master of International Business students at the Stockholm School of Economics, in the preparation of, and during, their field trips to Uganda. The 2020 trip has been postponed due to Covid-19.

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