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Dokolo district gets safe water boost despite COVID-19 lockdown

A Dokolo water mechanic does his thing. PHOTO SNV MEDIA

Dokolo District Hand Pump Mechanics Association gives 15,500 people access to safe water

Dokolo, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | While many areas in Uganda struggled to maintain normal services in many sectors, Dokolo district authorities engaged home-grown mechanics with local knowledge to ensure continued access to safe water at 62 sources.

Up to 15,500 people were able to safely navigate the lockdown by accessing safe water after authorities engaged the Dokolo District Hand Pump Mechanics Association (HPMAs) to ensure repair and rehabilitation of over 60 water sources.

With most financial resources across the country directed towards the fight against COVID-19, many districts had limited funds to put into maintaining water sources –  a fact which played into the hands of the well trained Dokolo District Hand Pump Mechanics Association.

When a supplier of the services was sought, HPMAs with their local knowledge bagged the contract as fruits of the training they have been getting from the The Improving Water Supply Sustainability in Northern Uganda (IWAS) project.

The water offices in most districts like Dokolo have often relied on medium to large private sector providers for repair and rehabilitation works despite their higher labour costs and side-lined the small Hand Pump Mechanic Associations with their lower labour costs.

In March, the situation changed as districts grappled with the urgent need to repair as many water sources as possible so that communities could have access to water during the lockdown.

The well organised Hand Pump Mechanic Associations with their lower labour fees became more attractive to the districts who could now repair more water sources with their limited funds.

In Dokolo, the district water office was able to repair 62 water sources giving 15,500 people access to safe water.

“This is a new beginning for us. We have wanted to work with the district for a long time. Now that they have seen the quality of our work, I am confident that more opportunities will open up for us to work with them in the near future,” Benson Ogwal, the Chairman Dokolo Hand Pump Mechanics Association said.

The Association has now embarked on an assessment to identify non-functioning water resources in the district, in order to mobilise funds from different platforms as a way of marketing their services

Role of IWAS in northern Uganda

The Improving Water Supply Sustainability in Northern Uganda (IWAS) project in northern Uganda with funding from the Austrian Development Agency has  trained the leaders on governance, in business development and supported them to develop their business plans.

IWAS has been working to revamp HPMAs by strengthening their leadership structures and encouraging members to vote new leaders into office.

HPMAs have not been competitive and have been disadvantaged, largely because of poor organisation and management within the associations.

Many associations had no adequate business skills or guiding policies and as such operated as briefcase organisations without an office, making them invisible and non-competitive.

The project also supported sub-counties to establish sub-county water supply and sanitation boards (SWSSBs) as supporting structures for the Hand Pump Mechanic Associations.

A total of 22 SWSSBs were established in the four districts of Kole, Alebtong, Dokolo and Lira Districts. The SWSSBs oversee functionality of water sources within their sub-counties.

The SWSSBs work in a triangular relationship with the village level water user committees who are responsible for collecting operation and maintenance funds and remitting this to the SWSSB who then assign hand pump mechanics through their associations to carry out preventive maintenance of the water sources.

The SWSSBs in consultation with the HPMAS developed standard fees for borehole repairs and maintenance which were included in the preventive maintenance contracts. By the end of 2019, HPMAS and SWSSBs were fully functional. However, the districts were still not able to directly contract the services of the HPMAS citing the need for competitive bidding.

The IWAS project funded by the Austrian Development Agency aims to improve functionality of 850 waters sources, thereby giving 212,500 people uninterrupted access to sustainable safe water supply in the Lango  sub- region Lira, Dokole, Kole Alebton

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SOURCE: SNV Uganda

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