Saturday, 22 November 2014

Wednesday - World Toilet Day in Amuria

Did you know that one in three people in our world do not have a safe place to go to the toilet? That's around 1.5 billion people that are at risk of disease and attack while carrying out what we all have to do each day. This event, held on November 19th has existed for many years now and was recognised by the UN last year which is a huge step forward in reaching the goal of safe toilet facilities for all. We felt proud to be able to share in this day.
We travelled to Amuria Town to a District Government meeting with the District Chairman telling us that since 2011 the latrine coverage in the area has risen from just 38% to over 80%, quite an achievement! He believes this is why Amuria was chosen to celebrate World Toilet Day. He said that although it is a huge district it is the most improved in Uganda in terms of latrine coverage and ranks first for sanitation.

Amuria Health Centre

We then went to Amuria Health Centre, the first time a health facility has been visited on a Supporters' trip. It was built in the 1930s and is one of only two in the region serving 400,000 people - there is no hospital although they carry out functions similar to one. There are 46 beds and they plan to increase this to 128 but there is no way they could so without better facilities. Over 24 000 outpatients came here last year.

Imagine a hospital or health centre with no laundry facility - we saw women washing bed linen on the grass outside! There is no kitchen, so all food is prepared and cooked outside and the latrines are either full and therefore unusable or very close to the wards, with the not quite so ill patients helping with the cleaning of them! All clinical waste, syringes etc are burnt on the ground as there is no incinerator.

Bernie from our group brought a big bag of medical supplies over from home which was very gratefully received.
We walked through the maternity ward where there were not enough beds, so many of the mothers were on the floor with newborn babies and the building was old with bars on the windows and was in desperate need of a coat of paint. As we walked through to the waiting area we saw a chicken ahead of us that had wandered in from outside. Here mothers had walked up to 4km with their babies to receive their vaccinations and there were at least ten of them waiting to be seen by the nurse.
This visit was very tough and we all felt of so little use with the small amount of cleaning we did assist with.

Amuria School

It wasn't long before we headed across the busy road to Amuria School, no pedestrian crossing or speed limits here!

There was a quick walk to show us the latrines which were put in with WaterAid's help. But again there were nowhere near enough - the recommended ratio of pupils per "stance" (cubicle) is 40 but here it was 80 per latrine with hand washing taking place at the water collection point some way from the latrines. So much time must be spent waiting to spend a penny!

We then split into three groups to see a health club lesson, help draw posters about hygiene and paint an outside wall of a classroom, although the inside looked in more need of a makeover really!

Sprucing up the outside walls of a classroom

The inside walls could do with a lick of paint as well

114 pupils in one classroom!

These boys loved the camera!

These girls were very chatty and wanted to help us with our bags!

We then went to sit with many other guests and pupils for the World Toilet Day celebrations, we were told that this could last up until around 2pm, but in the end it went on until after 4pm! Apparently it is not uncommon for a single speech to last for two hours here! We were expecting the Prime Minister to attend but instead it was the Minister of Health who finished with an inspiring speech, we also were entertained with singing and dancing by the children and Barry from our group also did an amazing speech!
Arrival of the procession

Dancers who could jump very high in the air!

Minister of Health giving his speech

Everyone got up to dance at the end

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