A Ugandan government official after inspection of a latrine built by a refugee household whose home is used as a model home from which the other refugees can learn good hygiene and sanitation practices.

World Toilet Day: Addressing refugee sanitation needs in Uganda to save lives

More than one million South Sudanese refugees in Uganda put immense pressure on facilities to receive newcomers. One area which all people can relate to is the need for latrines. But latrine and hygiene facilities have improved in several settlements, the Danish Refugee Council said ahead of World Toilet Day, November 19.


Most of the refugee settlements hosting South Sudanese refugees in Uganda are in the West Nile region of the country. In 2016 when the refugee influx began, these settlements faced a shortage of latrines.

The latrine coverage has since improved due to the intervention of actors like DRC which have been working on improving responsible disposal of human waste and improved hygiene awareness in the settlements.

‘‘Significant progress has been made in improving latrine coverage in settlements like Rhino Camp. The risky practice of open defecation that was initially common has been reduced due to sensitization on toilet use,’’ said Daphne Mandhawun, a DRC WASH Coordinator for Imvepi and Rhino Camp settlements.

‘‘When we were first brought in Rhino Camp in August 2016, DRC was the first NGO to assist us with kits for digging latrines,’’ says Emerida Kolo, a 60 year old widow.

‘‘I have a latrine. This has prevented me from getting diseases like Cholera. I maintain the latrine. Children’s faeces is dropped in the latrine which eliminates flies,’’ added Kolo.

But even with such progress, more still needs to be done. Initial findings of an assessment done by REACH indicates that 46% of the households in Palorinya and Maaji settlements in Adjumani district lack a household latrine. REACH is a joint initiative of IMPACT, one of the partners in a DRC led 18- month long consortium being implemented with support from EU humanitarian aid.

REACH’s gap analysis, including where there is a need for more latrines, is being used to inform the intervention of the organisations in the consortium which includes the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and Windle Trust International Uganda.

To address the existing gaps in latrine coverage, DRC and the organisations in the consortium are supporting the refugee communities to construct 250 emergency latrines for new arrivals from South Sudan. An additional 960 latrines will also be built for Persons with Special Needs (PSN). And 20 blocks of latrines each with five stances will be constructed at schools attended by refugee and host community school- going children.

Toilet-digging kit composed of a pickaxe handle, a shovel, a piece of rope, a digging bar, a 16 litre bucket, a machete and a measuring tape have been procured to support households in the latrine digging process.

Supporting refugees to dig their latrines is not the only activity aimed at improving sanitation and latrine coverage in the refugee communities. In Pagorinya and Agojo settlements, LWF has carried out household sensitisation campaigns and trained 15 hygiene promoters, reaching 4,885 residents.

‘‘With a latrine, open defecation and waterborne infections have become history in my household,’’ said 48 year old Adrua Joyce, an Agojo resident.

Toilets, the UN says, ‘‘save lives because human waste spreads killer diseases’ ’DRC and its partners in Uganda are contributing to saving lives through supporting refugees to construct latrines for responsible management of human waste and thereby improving sanitation and saving lives.

In 2013, the UN General Assembly designated November 19 as World Toilet Day. The UN puts the number of people living without household toilets at 4.5 billion.

The theme for this year’s World Toilet Days is: Wastewater.

Where human waste goes and how it is managed, more so in a conflict and displacement situation has an impact on the quality of life of a people already in distress-- the internally displaced and refugee population.

In July 2016, Uganda witnessed an unprecedented influx of South Sudanese refugees fleeing conflict in their country.

By August 2017, according to UNHCR, the number of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda had surpassed the one million mark. Of these, UNHCR says, 80% are women and children.