Today is world toilet day, a huge day in the WaterAid calender to do another part of their work. As well as practically helping the communities through providing water supplies and educating they also work with governments and local councils to raise awareness of the importance of water and sanitation, today was a perfect example of that! The minister for health and the local Mp were both in attendance at the World Toilet Day celebrations in Amuria.
We began the day meeting the chairperson for the Amuria District and his government team, they were very welcoming and gave us a summary of their achievements in improving sanitation, despite the challenges of having more sub county's than any other region yet the same amount of funding.
We then went to the local hospital. I dont think I can put into words my feelings in the health center but I'm sure as hell going to try. I dont have pictures out of respect for the patients, so although it was a small part of the day I will probably spend most time on this.
The health center serves a community of 55,000 people, given that you would expect quite a large establishment, but this is not so. There are a total of 45 beds in the hospital, yet last year they saw 24,-58 patients.
Imagine in your head how you picture a hospital? A clean ward, food being served regularly, many toilets and bathing facilities for patients. Then push that from your mind, this is not at all what it was like. Walking into the maternity ward was a huge shock, there were so many women in the ward they were laying on the floor between the beds. There were chickens roaming the ward and broken windows and only one Doctor and one nurse.
How does this relate to water and sanitation I hear you ask? Well, the toilet has only outdoor pit latrines which only allow for 75% of the hospital population, the latrines are close to the ward and staff housing and the smell travels. In addition some of these latrines are close to full. I felt ill just walking into the toilet, imagine you are ill already and you need to use the toilet, there is no comfort at all. On top of this there is a no kitchen for safe and hygienic cooking and no laundry facilities, this means that patients have to bring their own food and the sheets are washed and dried outside free to collect bacteria.
One key thing to remember is that health and water are linked closely, a lot of the illness they treat are preventable with access to clean water and hygiene education for the villages. With improvements to water and waste water the demand on the hospitals would be a lot less.
In the afternoon we went to a local school and spent time with the children, there was also a fantastic presentation from local government officials. Its great to see how many people are firmly behind WaterAid's great work.
Dancing with the pupils was a great experience and I was enjoying it so much I didnt take many photos, fortunately the official photographer was on hand, so photos will be available when I return home. In the mean time here is a photo collage of our day.
As it is world Toilet Day please take some time to visit wateraid.org to see how you can get involved.