Meet Isa, a Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Project Officer working for Amref Health Africa in northern Uganda. Isa has been working for Amref for three years now, and was posted to the north of the country two years ago from Kampala. The districts of northern Uganda are very remote and under developed, suffering from almost two decades of civil war. During the war, an estimated 1.8 million people were displaced from their homes and forced to live in camps. Since 2006, people have started to return and have begun to rebuild their lives.
Amref Health Africa is supporting recently settled displaced people, improving their access to clean and safe water and sanitation facilities. Isa has been implementing a number of community and school based water and sanitation projects in the area. His role is a varied one which involves liaising with senior government District Envronmental Health Officers and District Education Officers, as well as visiting communities and primary schools to support in the roll out of project activities.
What is it like working in northern Uganda?
"People are still resettling to these northern district after the war, so access to water remains a challenge. Unlike other parts of Uganda, homes here are far apart and scattered, and distances are great. We have to plan carefully if we are drilling a borehole to ensure it provides access for as many people as possible. In the past there has been a culture of dependence with NGOs, but Amref is working hard with communities to change these attitudes of reliance, and to foster a culture of empowerment. I really like working in this region now and am used to working away from my home area of central Uganda."
What has been your greatest achievement over the last two years working in northern Uganda?
"Being part of interventions that really make a long term difference to the lives of people here. For example, supporting women’s groups to establish water committees once a new community water point has been built. By helping them to set up Village Savings and Loans Associations which manage a revolving fund from managing the water points, it can transform the livlihoods and health of women in this remote and underdeveloped area. The women use the additional income for paying school fees and cultivation to improve nutrition for their families."
What is your greatest hope for seeing improvements in the north of Uganda?
"I would like to see communities here transformed to become more sustainable and take more ownership of project interventions, which requires long term behaviour change. Sustainability is central to all our projects and we always ensure there are mechanisms in place for this. For example, in our school WASH projects, we encourage Parent Teacher Associations and School Management Committees to budget for WASH funds, to ensure the operation and maintenance of the hardware is maintained. We support schools to set up school gardens once access to water has been established, to improve the nutrition of students and to generate some income to put back into the schools health clubs."
What are Amref Health Africa’s key strengths in this region?
"Amref is known in this area as being an African organisation and one which understands the realities on the ground and the local culture. Amref is known for respecting local cultures and norms and playing a strong role in the community. Communities recognise Amref and we always get a good response. We have remained working in the region for long term development where as many other NGOs have moved out after IDPs were re-settled after the war. Amref remains neutral and does not get involved in politics so we are a trusted development partner, in an area that has been so badly affected by civil unrest."