A very strict lockdown in Uganda has kept COVID numbers low, but the economic fallout and potential for ill health is huge. We want to be there to support our staff and vulnerable communities.

Uganda has been praised internationally for its response to COVID-19: learning lessons from the spread of Ebola, the government introduced an early and strict lockdown across the country, with a curfew and school closures still in place. Currently the number of total cases is around 8,000 nationally, with 75 deaths from the virus.

However, the economic fallout from these measures threatens to be disastrous. In a recent report, WATSAN’s Field Director Eric Baingana describes job losses and shortage of income in many households, brought about by the restrictions, with some local employees going without payment since March. He says “There is generally shortage of food at households. Generally children’s parents/guardians have no money to pay for school fees. Most households cannot afford to have equipment and hand wash materials.”

A report from Development Initiatives in August 2020 identifies a likely rise in poverty in a country where nearly 20% of citizens already live below the poverty line. Additionally, it states that the government’s COVID-19 relief programmes, such as food and other relief aid, have been directed primarily people living in urban areas around Kampala, rather than those in remote areas such as North Kigezi and Kinkiizi Dioceses, where WATSAN’s project operates. The government’s response measures, which include loans and tax benefits, are focused on people in formal and stable employment in more urban areas, as opposed to those in micro-enterprises or self-employment, which characterise more rural areas.

Just as in the UK, people and communities who were already the most vulnerable in society will have their situations worsened by the pandemic. However, Eric’s final point is a reminder of the particular situation in Uganda and why WATSAN’s work has never been more needed: without strict lockdown measures, the lack of hand hygiene and poor sanitary facilities faced by families mean local outbreaks could spread much more quickly. Eric says most memorably in his report: “People live under perpetual fear of contracting COVID-19.”

WATSAN’s own staff are restricted in terms of the work they are able to carry out, with some construction possible (“hardware”), but limited health and hygiene education (“software”), which requires face-to-face contact. With a reduction in fundraising income over the past months, WATSAN can only afford to pay staff for work they are doing, leaving our network of masons also prone to the same economic pressures. We would very much like to provide a hardship fund for WATSAN’s workers, but need further help from our supporters if we are to do so.

In addition, the best way for us to support our workers is to give them work, so starting our next big project is also a priority. Our current target project is Bwanga Hill, a rural community and school in Rukungiri district where two toilets are shared between 150 pupils and water is collected from a low-yield spring a long walk away, or from a polluted stream shared with animals and cars. You can read more about this project here.

We are incredibly grateful to some of our regular supporters who have already increased their standing orders – thank you so much!

What you can do:

To achieve our objectives above, we need to raise a one-off total of £34,000 for the Bwanga Hill project, plus an additional £500 per month for our core costs and hardship fund. The latter could translate to just 25 more supporters giving £20 per month, for example – just over 60p per day, so less than half we might have spent on a cup of coffee when we were able to leave the house!

Here are some ideas for how you can help:

  • Increase an existing standing order as others have done
  • Make occasional donations a bit more regular by setting up new standing order
  • Persuade a friend or relative to become a one-off or regular donor
  • Do a sponsored challenge towards Bwanga – walk/run/climb/cycle or do something in your house or garden in the style of Captain Tom!
  • Hold an online fundraiser such as a quiz or an auction of promises
  • Join our virtual Walk for Water in 2021
  • Give as you shop online – thousands of online stores (including supermarkets) will donate a percentage of whatever you spend to WATSAN at no cost to you; just sign up to Give As You Live, and if you shop with Amazon, you can use similar service Amazon Smile.