A child washes his hands after using a latrine. DRC has supported the construction of 4,530 household latrines in refugee settlements in northern Uganda, helping improve latrine coverage sanitation.

World Toilet Day: Improved latrine coverage for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda

A European Union funded consortium led by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) has supported South Sudanese refugees in Uganda with construction of 7,630 household latrines, improving hygiene and sanitation in settlements in the north of the country.


“When we arrived this entire place was bushy and the bush became the latrine,” said Onesta Saida, 27, a resident of Ofua 5, a zone in Rhino camp refugee settlement in Uganda.  ”Everywhere was just faeces,” Saida described the hygiene situation when he and other refugees first arrived in Uganda, fleeing violence back home in South Sudan.

”If households had not been supported to construct latrines in a timely manner there would have been a high risk of water and sanitation related diseases,” observed Rael Akakoro, a DRC Water & Sanitation team leader in Rhino camp.

The UN puts the percentage of the global population without a toilet at home or one that safely manages excreta at 60%, representing 4.5 billion people.

The need for latrines, in addition to other water, sanitation and sanitations services, is often dire and urgent in displacement situations as was witnessed with the influx of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda in 2016.

DRC, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Windle International Uganda and REACH Initiatives, with funding from the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid, have since May 2017 been responding by offering critical assistance in water, sanitation, shelter, livelihoods and education for South Sudanese refugees and their hosts.

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DRC has constructed latrines at primary schools in refugee settlements used by close to 3,000 pupils from refugee families and host communities.

In Rhino, DRC supported the construction of 4,530 household latrines by providing households with materials needed to construct latrines such as digging kits, slabs, poles and tippy taps, contributing to improving latrine coverage in the settlement from 15% in August 2017 to 68% in August 2018.

“These hygiene improvements really work – we have much fewer cases of diseases like diarrhea,” said a 45-year-old South Sudanese refugee who only identified himself as Palma. “Before people defecated everywhere, so many people suffered from typhoid and diarrhea.”

In Adjumani, another refugee settlement, where DRC partner in the EU funded consortium, LWF, is active, 3,100 household latrines have been constructed. Beneficiaries include vulnerable persons—the elderly, disabled and the sick—who on their own wouldn’t have been able to construct latrines.  One of them was Christine Dakota Asan, 68, who is paralyzed. Christine benefitted from shelter and a latrine.

”My shelter and sanitation is better that when I first came,” said Christine with a smile.

In addition to the household latrines, DRC has constructed 15 blocks of 5 stance of ventilated improved pit latrine latrines in primary schools, improving access to sanitation to about 3,000 pupils, according to Rael Akakoro, the DRC WASH Team Leader.

To complement the latrines, hygiene promoters have been trained. These in turn have sensitized communities on among others the dangers of open defecation, the importance of handwashing and keeping water sources clean and keeping water sources clean.

Ladu Angelo, 36, is a refugee and a hygiene promoter with DRC in Rhino camp.

“Our environment has changed for the better after the hygiene intervention,” says Ladu. “The neighbourhood is generally cleaner.”

Uganda hosts 1.1 million refugees, according to figures from a recent verification of refugee numbers in the country by the government and the UN refugee Agency, UNHCR.  The majority of the refugees are from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Uganda has been hailed around the world as a model for its progressive refugee policy.

As the world commemorates World Toilet Day today, DRC and its partners in Uganda have saved lives through provision of vital hygiene and sanitation services like latrines, hygiene awareness in settlements and provision of clean water thus mitigating outbreak of killer diseases.