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Today was our last work day before we fly home tomorrow night. The day began with a meeting with the Director of Public Health and Environment for Kampala. He described the Kampala City Council sanitation effort that started in 2013. They are improving licensing, standards, education, awareness and access to sanitary practices by working with Kampala residents and entrepreneurs in the sanitation business.
We visited their call center. Here residents can get information on sanitation issues they have, and even schedule a pit extraction. The biggest challenge he sees in the informal settlements is how to get the equipment to the pits, due to the lack of roads and density of houses. KCCA has scoured the informal settlements with a GPS to locate each pit latrine so they can start to help better manage them.
A big part of their job is educating people. We saw a sign on a bathroom showing people how to sit on toilets as it is common to put your feet on the toilet and go.
This contaminates the seat for the next person. People don’t understand the relationship between diarrhea and their sanitation practices. The KCCA is making them aware that pit latrines that leak into their yard are bad for their kids! KCCA is also training the vacuum truck drivers on safety and how to report latrines that need servicing.
It is hard to understand as a Westerner who takes these things for granted, but this is the starting position. The solution to the problem will require a multifaceted approach, like the KCCA approach. The MSTS technology could help them make a significant step change.
We then went to one of the two treatment plants that service the entire city. They are significantly undersized to handle all the waste. The city has plans to start up several more plants in the next year. This will reduce the vacuum trucks' travel time to empty their trucks, which sometimes is over two hours in traffic.
Kampala currently has 8% of the population on piped sewer with the hopes to get to 30% some day!
The so-called finished water is discharged to a wetland. They call this their tertiary treatment, but the treated water contains a significant amount of E. Coli from their tests. Unfortunately, there were people illegally living on the wetland and growing crops to feed their families.
Two men from the Kampala vacuum truck drivers “Association” talked to us about their issues, and it was very much the same as the issues in Accra. The biggest problem is the distance to the treatment plant, sometimes over two hours drive, with traffic. Trash in the pit latrines is their next biggest issue. They are benefiting from the KCCA relationship helping them schedule jobs and training them on safety. PPE is regularly used, which was a big change. A concern of theirs is that the KCCA organization loses its funding and stops the good work they are doing. As poor as these countries are, this is a real concern.
We then went back to the city building to meet the Executive Director of the KCCA. She was introduced as Madame Jennifer. We held a brief meeting on her terrace outside. She was a stately woman who spoke very eloquently and thanked the group for all their work. She was very thankful for the funding provided to her city and welcomed any help we could give. Short introductions/meetings like these can pave the way for future discussions if we decide to test an MSTS unit here in Kampala.
We then went back to the hotel and finished the day debriefing before we said good-bye to Sun Kim before he left for the airport.
Sun is our main Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation connection as we proceed through Phase II. Our time with him was incredibly valuable as he hosted a once in a lifetime opportunity! Thank you, Sun!
On a sadder note, Lance found a news article in the newspaper that police have found over 100 bodies in latrines, pits or trenches over the last two years. Parents tell their little ones to not go into the bathroom to prevent them from falling into the latrine. Unfortunately, that begins the vicious cycle of outdoor defecation.
During our stay this week we noticed large bats flying around, even in the day. They like hanging out in the palm trees near our hotel.
During our final dinner with the KCCA team, Jenelle shared two Ugandan words that she learned. The first is “amazi” which means feces, the second word “amazzi” means water. Our task is to develop a technology to turn “amazi” to “amazzi”! It will be harder than just adding a “z”, but like Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it is done”. That is our mission!
Tomorrow we will stop off at chimpanzee island on our way to the airport so look for a great final blog in the next day or so!!!
In Kampala alone, KCCA has located over 170,000 pit latrines in the informal settlements that service over 1 million people.
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