Innovations in sanitation: Leading the way to improved health

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By Bamuloba Muzamiru

KAMPALA, Uganda – More than 1,000 people learned about the most recent innovations in latrine construction, solid waste management, hand hygiene and other aspects of sanitation and hygiene at a recent exhibition held in Kampala under the theme of “Improved Sanitation through Innovation.” Organized by Uganda’s Ministry of Health with the support of the Uganda Sanitation Fund, the exhibition brought community members together with service providers and product suppliers.

As one of the exhibitors noted, “We have been offered a great opportunity for displaying and marketing our products, knowledge and skill as we develop the sanitation industry.”

Visitors were able to learn all about the various technologies available for improving sanitation at both the household and the community level, including the use of SaTo (safe toilet) pans, the conversion of faecal sludge into briquets used for cooking, pedal-operated handwashing facilities, and the latest improvements in latrine construction.

In addition to all the technological innovations related to sanitation, visitors were also able to learn more about how to address issues of hygiene, which rely on social solutions rather than engineering – discussing how to use education, promotion and communication to drive change. Visitors could also learn how to finance sanitation projects through their village savings and loan associations.

Exhibitors included the Kampala City Council Authority, Sanitation for Millions, School Water, Save the Children, SATO, Sanitation Solutions Group, Saniwaste Solutions, Lira, Kole Masons Group, SARAYA, Welt Hunger, Wooden Woods, Red Cross, Appropriate Technology Centre, Africa Water Solutions, BRAC and the Districts of Dokolo, Lira, Maracha, Apac and Soroti. In addition to private sector companies and NGOs, the exhibit attracted attendees from donor organizations, academia, inventors and entrepreneurs.

Uganda has taken the approach of working through local governments to support sanitation and hygiene interventions that are community-led, depending on local technology to solve local challenges. This has led to considerable improvement in, for example, latrine coverage, which has increased from 49% in 1997 to 79% in 2019. Through innovation, community mobilization, sensitization, follow-up verification and certification, many more Ugandans now live in open defecation-free environments.