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This week, the Uganda Ministry of Health will host high-level delegates from the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) who will make strategic decisions and review implementation of the Council’s programs.
The WSSCC is a Geneva-based organization that is part of the United Nations. WSSCC’s Global Sanitation Fund currently supports activities run by the Ministry of Health in 15 districts under the Uganda Sanitation Fund (USF). Its financial commitment to the USF is for approximately 12.7 billion (US$5m), targeting 3.5 million people in 15 districts over a period of five years. A decision on a possible increase in financial commitment to the USF is likely to be announced this week.
The visiting delegation will be led by the Hon. Professor Anna Tibaijuka, Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development of the Republic of Tanzania in her capacity as Chair of WSSCC. On 14 October, together with government officials and sector partners, they will visit Bukedea, Kibuku, Kumi and Pallisa where the USF is being implemented. Following the feedback from the districts, WSSCC will hold its bi-annual Steering Committee meeting in Mbale on October 15th and in Kampala on the 16th.
Uganda was selected for this visit on the basis of the strong results that have been achieved to date. Over the past 18 months, the sanitation of over half a million people has been improved through activities of USF. This has been possible through the combined efforts of individual households, Village Health Teams, district health inspectors and the Environmental Health Division of the Ministry of Health.
The visit also comes at a time when the Global Sanitation Fund is considering expansion of activities, including increased funding, in countries that are demonstrating the conditions and coordination necessary to achieve good results. The Fund is currently active in 17 countries.
The USF’s current target is to reach 6,000 villages across the 15 districts and it seeks to improve the lives of up to 3.8 million Ugandans. USF has sensitized households about the links between sanitation and health, hygiene and human dignity. This approach has mobilized community savings such that for every US $ 100 spent by GSF in behaviour change interventions, households have invested US $ 500 in improved sanitation.
The visit will be an opportunity to look more closely at the sanitation issue. As the year 2015 approaches, international attention is increasingly focussed on the fact that some targets, such as that for sanitation, are unlikely to be met. This has prompted the United Nations Secretary-General and Deputy-Secretary General to launch a Call to Action on Sanitation, encouraging global institutions, governments, households, the private sector, NGOs and Parliamentarians and UN organizations, to eradicate the practice of open defecation by 2020.
Universal sanitation coverage – decent toilets for all people, in homes, at school, at work and in other public places – is a goal that is within reach in Uganda.