UNHCO, supported by 9th EDF SDP, recently conducted a survey to establish citizens’ opinions and satisfaction with local government services and local administration in the districts of Nebbi, Oyam, Pallisa, Isingiro, Masaka, Nakapiripirit and Kasese. The focus was on the health, education and water sectors. Below is a brief narration of some of the observations during the survey.
Health: Put aside the well known national issues of shortage of medicines and staff which were prevalent in the seven districts, water shortages at health centres is appalling. Where a rain-water harvesting tank is found there are high chances of it being dry. One wonders how the health centres are supposed to preach hygiene when they do not have access to water. An example is Nakapiripirit HC III where health workers have to travel long distances to fetch water. The situation is compounded by the lack of electricity even when the electrical grid is a few meters away from the health centre.
The lower-level health centres which are nearer to the communities are mostly non-functional and those that are functioning serve patients from as far as 15Kms away.
Inadequate accommodation for most health workers has had adverse effects on their attendance and punctuality. Health workers live miles-away but are expected to be constantly present at the facilities. This implies that they are not able to effectively respond to emergency cases if they live faraway from the health centres.
In some areas, people are more comfortable visiting private clinics rather than put their lives at risk in poorly facilitated health centers. It is quite absurd that authorities perceive primary healthcare to be free while the situation on the ground is quite different. There is need to build citizens’ confidence in the healthcare system.
Education: Regardless of the enormous investment in primary education, a number of major issues have not been addressed, feeding being one of them. In Kigyende Primary School in Isingiro district, pupils complained of preparing lunch and not being able to have a share of it. The lunch is meant for teachers – this case is not isolated as the same was observed in other districts. The situation is worsened by the fact that in some schools, both teachers and pupils have nothing to eat. This results in poor performance, absenteeism and loss of learning time. Parents have been encouraged to provide food for their children but in vain. Blame was put on government and local political leaders who shy away from ensuring that parents provide their children with food because they perceive it a political expense. Teachers also complained of inadequate latrine stances for both girls and boys. Those that are in existence are on the verge of collapsing.
In Karamoja region, where pupil absenteeism and drop-out rates are very high, local authorities recommended the construction of boarding schools which will help in detaching pupils from the strong cultural barriers imposed by parents back home. Some Head-Teachers have improvised by turning some classrooms into dormitories to encourage pupils to stay at school. This should be taken up as an affirmative action for education in a region that has been lagging behind.
Water: Local governments are directly responsible for planning, implementing, monitoring and reporting on water services. However, it is shocking that maintenance of water sources seems not to be a priority. Those that breakdown are never repaired which forces communities to return to water sources that were previously abandoned for safety reasons. Some of these water sources are close to district and sub-county offices but shockingly non-functional. The water committees that are responsible for maintenance are not well equipped with the necessary tools. Most bore-hole mechanics are redundant. It is also important that communities are sensitized on the importance of contributing financially to the committees to enable them operate effectively.