How the 12 year water crisis in Oci Village, Arua District comes to an end

For over 12 years people in Oci village with a total of  61 families with average of 469 people has been living with no clean and safe water as a result of the broken borehole that had not been repaired since 2004. Children from Oci primary school with the total population of 700 pupils were also the victims.  Absence of clean water had a negative effect on the community members.  One of the community members recalls the situation;

“In my household, we would go to the hospital every month due to diarrhea or worms. This is because we used to drink water which we shared with animals like baboons, monkeys and cows.”

Oci village neighbors the national park and the wild animals share the open water sources with human beings. There are also many pastoralists who use the same water source for their hundreds of cattle. People would therefore share water with monkeys, baboons, cows, goats and many other animals. It was estimated that every month, two families in the village would be exposed to a water borne disease. This reduced the productivity of the people in the community but also incurred more money going to the hospital. The head teacher of Oci primary schools recalls how children would miss school due to water borne diseases. He said that in a month, over 50 children would be away from school because of the water borne diseases.

One of the community members who was there when the borehole was being constructed recalls how they got excited when AFARD NGO constructed the borehole in 2001. “We used it for only 2 years and it broke down. We called upon the sub county to repair but they never came,” he said.

MACCO under the IDF supported project was able to identify this challenge through the trained community monitors. MACCO then did a verification to find out why the water source broke down and the costs required to enable engaging of the right stakeholders. “When we did an assessment, we realized that the borehole was not well maintained because community members were not contributing maintenance money. We also found out that the money for repair was above 500,000 and this required the sub county to work on the repairs as it is mandated in Directorate of Water and Environment. We therefore had to engage the district and the sub county to do the repair which they successfully did,” said Neima, Project officer, IDF supported project. The District Water Officer also commended MACCO in enabling them to identify such issues which are never reported. “MACCO’s intervention has enabled us to increase our water coverage in the district from 88% in the last two years to 92%. If we continue like this, we will definitely be over and above the national water coverage,” the District Water Officer said.

One of the water user committee member in the area mentioned that the barriers that had made them not to engage the local government was not knowing that it was the mandate of the government to do major repairs and this they learnt through the radio programmes conducted by MACCO.

After the repair, a lot has changed in the community.  The head teacher now boosts of the regular class attendance by the pupils in his school. Communities are now happy that they can easily access clean water which has saved them of huge sums of money which they would spend on medication. “My children are no longer getting sick and now they can attend school. I am no longer spending a lot of money going to the hospital,” said one of the community members in one of the interaction with IDF staff during monitoring. In Oci Village men are now engaging in the household chores like fetching water which they had left to women because of long distance. Here is what one of the men said during the Focus group discussion with IDF staff that was later confirmed with all the other men during the Focus Group Discussion.

You see me now, my house is the one up there, I was one of the people who was affected most because my wife and children had to move 8km to fetch water. We could sometimes sleep with no water. I could also not fetch water because I could not hold a jerrican in my hands for 8 km because men here culturally cannot put a water jerrican on the head. This ended up affecting our concentration on other activities. But since this borehole was repaired, I now collect water any time for our plants, food and animals. We are now concentrating on digging and planting even with the assurance that we can get water for our crops. In dry season using this borehole.”

MACCO has now empowered the community monitors and the water user committee who now do monthly collections of 2000ug shillings per household to do minor repairs. The communities are now optimistic that this will sustainably enable them to maintain their water source.