THE fact that millions of Ugandans do not have pit latrines and therefore ease themselves in the bush as disclosed by minister Jennifer Namuyangu is a major embarrassment.
Outbreaks of epidemics like cholera and hepatitis E, which have cost many lives and huge amounts of money, have been directly linked to open-cast defecation because they originate from germs that can only come from faeces.
In Kampala, the majority of water springs have been found to contain bacteria that can only come from faeces. Unfortunately, even those who use pit latrines are affected because of their careless neighbours who contaminate the environment. This public health menace can be directly linked to a fatal failure in local governance.
Since the 1980s appointed chiefs used ruthless methods, including the whip, to force citizens to dig pit latrines. Elected local council representatives who replaced appointed village chiefs have unfortunately taken on a populist approach.
Thinking more about winning the next elections, they generally fear to implement a bylaw that requires every home to have a latrine. Yet implementing this bylaw would prevent many deaths and save large amounts of government money.
Whereas such methods as caning latrine defaulters are out-of-date, any local council chairman who cannot mobilise his people to build pit latrines is not worth the position.
Government should introduce a reward scheme in which projects like prosperity-for-all are given only to villages that achieve a 100% latrine coverage. That way, the entire community will put pressure on latrine defaulters.
Reward villages for latrines