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Rain at last in Katine - but harvesting the water is a problem

Katine residents desperate to tap fresh drinking water supplies provided by heavy rains in north-eastern Uganda say they are missing out because specially-built water tanks appear not to be working properly


Antasia Apio searches for water from a rainwater tank ('jar') in Olano village, Katine, north-eastern Uganda. Photograph: Joseph Malinga

For almost a month now rains have been falling consistently in Katine sub-county, north-eastern Uganda, giving people hope that water shortages will soon be history.

Even Katine parish, which for several months last year was one of the worst hit among all the local villages, is receiving considerable rainfall.

Unfortunately, much of this water is being wasted, leaving the community still short of water, rain or no rain.
The African Medical Research Foundation (Amref), which is implementing the three-year Katine community development project funded by Guardian readers and Barclays Bank, is working to help communities tap into this water resource that seems abundant yet remains elusive.

In a bid to increase safe water coverage in Katine, about 10 local families with iron-roofed houses have each been given a 2,500-litre capacity water jar (tank) to catch rainwater running off the roof. Sadly, no jar has ever been completely filled - some have filled up to half-way but others remain empty.

Several residents say the jars are not receiving enough water because construction work on them has not been finished.

"The tank does not get full, however much it rains," said Antasia Apio, a beneficiary from Olano village in Ocholoi parish. "My tank has a connection problem. We get only six jerricans each time it rains and then the tank dries up." She added that despite this, fellow residents have been flocking to her home to take a share of the little water the jar collects.

At Omariai village in Katine parish, Sharon Arupo, the daughter of a retired police officer, Gerald Enyidu (also a beneficiary), says their tank captured a good amount of water though it too had connection problems."We have some good water, only we are not the only ones using it," she said. "Almost all the village fetches water here."

Sam Emolu, a retired police officer from Abata village, says his tank had never filled up, meaning his family still has to fetch water from a borehole. "My tank serves the whole of this community and this leaves us still suffering from water shortages because the capacity of this water jar cannot sustain a big population," he said.

According to Emolu, attempts to set up more water jars would be hampered by the fact that most people lived in mud and wattle, grass-thatched houses.

At Agora village, Rebecca Awiyo complained about incomplete work. She said her family's tank hardly held any water. When the Guardian visited the site, it found the water jar open without a top cover, and a lot of dirt accumulating inside.

Initially, Amref built the water jars to support vulnerable residents such as the elderly, widows, and people living with HIV/Aids. But severe water shortages have forced the whole community to share the same limited resource.

Amref project manager Fredrick Kabikira said: "[We] undertook construction of water facilities and one of these was water jars in selected homes. However, like all construction work, small defects were discovered later although, for some cases, these resulted [from] misuse especially when children played with taps and the rain harvesting gulleys.

"[Amref] has made assessment of all these problems and plans to correct all the defects in advanced stages. The rainwater harvesting systems (tanks) in schools have just been corrected and the children now have clean water - the next phase will be the water jars."

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