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Monday, November 30, 2009

Baylor Uganda Children demand Rights

By Esther Nakkazi

“We have a right, the right of living; we have a hope, for the future; we need care; we need love; we have to grow, its a generation!” sang children swinging their hands and dancing away to the drum beat.
Child labor, defilement, child sacrifice, we need our rights! recited an HIV positive young girl, a member of the Baylor Uganda children choir at the 3rd annual national paediatric HIV&AIDS with a theme ‘accelerating access to HIV prevention, care and treatment for all children,’ conference held in Kampala 26-27th November.
The conference this time emphasized the need for indiscriminate universal rights to counseling, treatment, paediatric care and rights to all, irrespective of age, gender, race and geographical location.
“Children’s rights continue to be violated by their parents and care takers. They refuse to bring the children for testing and treatment and some of them even take them away,” said Prof. Addy Kekitiinwa the executive director Baylor Uganda Children’s Foundation.
This years World Aids Day slogan is ‘Access my Right, Testing my responsibility’ which has been coined from the global theme of ‘Universal Access and Human Rights.’
In Uganda, health officials say many parents deny their children treatment or drop it and opt for spiritual healing- just because the children cannot make their own decisions. But this should not mean they be denied treatment.
In Uganda 120,000-150,000 children aged less than 15 years are estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS of which 50,000 have advanced HIV disease and need anti retroviral therapy (ART).
HIV is one of the major killers of children in Uganda, one in six deaths in children is as a result of HIV infection, 30 percent of HIV infected children will die by one year of age and 50 percent before the age of two unless they are identified and treated early.
One of the Baylor choir children said some parents have become a menace and do not want to look after their HIV positive children. Some parents sell the children’s items, others are drunkards and some even chase the children away from the homes when they establish that they are HIV positive. But these children like all other children and have simple basic needs.
The Government has come up to assure that it will ensure scale-up of access to services for Early Infant HIV testing and treatment, and for care and support for all children that are rejected and affected by HIV.
But although enrollment of children into HIV care has improved over the past one year, it is still very low compared to that of adults. Of the 193,000 people accessing ART by the end of June 2009, only 16,500 (8.5%) were children aged less than 15 years of age.
Children in rural settings do not have easy access to ART as compared to those in urban settings, over 60 percent of children on ART of children are treated in urban settings.
One of the major problems is that the unique and dissimilar issues of children infected and affected by HIV&AIDS are often lumped-up together with those of adults, giving children’s issues less attention than required or no attention at all.
Aids where did you come from, we are stigmatized in school, even in church; defilement, child sacrifice we need our rights! Aids where did you come from, parents so discriminative! the Baylor youngsters danced away as they exited from the conference hall.
Ends-

Thursday, November 19, 2009

World Toilet Day!

By Esther Nakkazi

The History of Pit Latrines
The history of the pit latrine in Uganda is quite bizarre. Its documentation starts in the 1950’s when the colonialists started to promote sanitation and the chiefs enforced pit latrines construction and monitored them.
At the time latrine coverage in Uganda was almost 100 percent. As a way to promote hygiene and sanitation, each household had to have a dish rack for drying the household cutlery, a bathing shelter for a bathroom, a pit latrine and a granary for storing food.
The pit latrine was built 30 metres away from the home and was 15-20 metres deep. The super structure was made of mud and wattle; the slab was from hard wood timber. A shrub with soft, wide, sweet smelling leaves was planted near the pit latrine to be used as toilet tissue.
Toilet matters were not discussed publicly and toilets had different names for the diverse people in Uganda, it was unheard of to discuss poo in public and it was a taboo t talk about it at meal times. It still is until today.
“When you grow with pit latrines – you cannot talk about feaces when you are eating. It is a taboo,” said Ronald Mugisa- executive director, Foundation for Rural Development (FORUD), a not for profit organization promoting the use of EcoSan toilets in western Uganda.
All the materials used in the household hygiene and sanitation system were locally available. The pit latrine for the household with at least 10 members would last for 15-20 years.
After Uganda got independence in 1964, power shifted to the central government and there were no chiefs to enforce and monitor sanitation programmes. The Public Health Act of 1964, with various sanitation and waste related ordinances or by-laws prepared by local government were formulated.
As the years got by, the population grew, rural urban migration set in and sanitation ceased to be a priority. A World Bank study, ‘Scaling up sanitation and hygiene in Uganda 2007’, shows a trend in latrine coverage with 98% coverage in 1960’s and going down to 45% and 20% in the1970’s and 1980’s respectively.
The coverage was so bad at the time, amplified by the political turmoil and civil unrest. In 1974 the government enacted a new law that required each household to construct a pit latrine - 30 metres away from the house and 15 meters deep.
Even if the law was tough then with a fine of Shs. 20 (less than a $ cent today) or the head of the household getting arrested and tried by the village courts, many households defaulted on having pit latrines.
Increasingly in the rural areas people get arrested and publicly embarrassed for not having latrines. But even at the national level there is sector fragmentation and sanitation is not a priority.
According to the World Bank, latrine coverage in Uganda today has stagnated at 60 percent since 2002. Studies also show that 75 percent of Uganda’s disease burden is preventable and linked to poor hygiene and inadequate sanitation facilities and practices.
The provision of sanitation is a key development intervention, which also improves an individual’s health, well being and economic productivity. At the household level, besides the well-known health outcomes of improved sanitation, there is increased comfort, privacy, convenience, and safety for women especially at night and for children, dignity, social status and cleanliness.

If EcoSan toilets are used there are also reduced accidents, increased property value, increased rental income and reduced fertilizer costs (ecological sanitation). This makes business sense and it is what Water For People-Uganda partly hopes to achieve in its sanitation for business programmae. It can be promoted today on World Toilets Day!.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Adaptation-Uganda's priority at the Copenhagen talks

By Esther Nakkazi
After three days of congress, last week 1-4 November, Uganda’s priority at the international climate change talks will be adaptation. There are only four weeks to the climate- change summit in Copenhagen.
Although Africa is supposed to come up with a single voice, to seal the deal that will bring unity against global warming, it is imperative that each nation has its priority area; in Uganda’s case adaptation will be the frontline choice.
But if Uganda wants to focus on adaptation it has to put in place realistic adaptation strategies for sustainability. Countries that are unable to withstand the current climate change shocks may not be able to survive.
Jessica Ariyo, the minister of environment, said Uganda would toe the line of adaptation but policies need to be put in place to allow for the process to happen and a mechanism to transfer funds from polluters to non- polluters.
Some of the adaptation strategies include building capacities of communities at risk, strengthening early warning systems, developing and transferring homegrown technologies and solutions.
“We also want to see that the Kyoto protocol is scaled up and more carbon trading projects implemented here because we have implemented the programmes they told us to set up,” said Ariyo.
Uganda the chair of the climate change unit at the African Union is also planning to use its proactive climate change committee in parliament, the only one in Africa so far, to push for its stand at Copenhagen.
As the Kampala African initiative on climate change conference kicked off at Munyonyo Speke Resort, the 750 participants, who attended from all districts in Uganda, heard that the people at the local level are already finding ways to adapt to climate change.
But adaptation strategies should be improved like storage of water through man- made interventions like rainwater harvesting and improving the credibility of the meteorology data.
For example people in the northern region of Uganda are already into rainwater harvesting to reduce the vulnerabilities of local communities during prolonged droughts.
But more investment needs to be made in the meteorological department –increase hydrological stations- to have reliable data that farmers can use. Currently most of the data disseminated about the whether predictions is not reliable.
Ariyo said the government is going to consolidate and empower the meteorological department, bringing all partners together for accurate data and climate modeling through a new body the Uganda Meteorological Agency.
“We can only make our basis for science from what we discover. Then we need to improve the way we disseminate this information, we do know that rainfall intensity will change, droughts will be prolonged but can only say this on the basis of science,” said Dr. Richard Taylor, of the University of College of London.
The African Initiative congress on Climate change had at least 300 students active participants who were not only open to learning through asking hard questions but also sustaining an all round comprehensive dialogue.
Dr. John English, executive director, CIGI, said the momentum should be continued as the youth drive it forward. Students said they want climate change to be integrated in school curriculums.
“The participation of the youth in this conference was strategic. We have to engage the youth if we have to make a successful intervention in climate change- intergenerational equities or inequities have to involve the youth,” said Nelson Sewankambo, the director African Initiative.
The congress was a joint initiative between the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI)- a think tank in Canada, the Salama SHIELD Foundation (SSF) a non-governmental organization registered in Canada, Uganda and Malawi as well as Makerere University.
“We have had a comprehensive dialogue, which be emulated in our districts. As people go to Copenhagen to seal the deal- we have already sealed ours- through exchanging ideas and agreeing to work together, said Sewankambo.
Ends.

Using ICTs for disaster management

By Esther Nakkazi

Floods are on the rise. Temperatures are going up. Disasters are imminent everywhere but it has been proven that Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) are useful to avert them.
Now disaster management experts say an emergency ICT disaster Fund should be set up for the east African region. The Fund could be contributed to from the proposed African climate change Fund and used to predict, create awareness and preparedness of communities to improve response capability in disasters.
Research done with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has proven that an investment of $1 in ICTs used for disaster management through monitoring and response could save $14- $22 for rehabilitation after the disaster.
“We should incorporate all systems for instance early warning systems are critical but it is useless if you cannot disseminate information to evacuate and people can not respond in a positive manner,” said Dr. Cosmas Zavazava, the head of developed countries, ITU.
“So alerting communities should be in real time from the right source, with an ability to monitor, predict and communicate. Only ICTs can do that successfully.” This was during a meeting in Kampala on the use of ICTs in disaster management.
In the face of climate change, more disasters with higher intensity have been predicted to occur. ICTs can ensure that adequate measures are implemented before disasters strike, the meeting heard.
Common disasters in the east African region include floods, hail storms, volcanic activity, landslides, droughts and earthquakes while communication channels like mobile phones, satellite radios, emails, sirens, radios and televisions, emails, cell broadcasting and text messages could be used.
ICTs could be used for data collection, processing, analyzing and dissemination. Ms. Rose Nakabugo Bwenvu said one of the challenges to disaster management was data collection, analysis, and the lack of a database on many of these situations.
“It is a multi sectoral problem, we do not have most of the data and cannot coordinate it. We do not even have the number for the losses of both lives and property, but ICTs could be very helpful,” said Ms. Bwenvu of the emergency operation centre of the Office of the Prime minister.
If all national disaster management centres through the region used ICTs, then it would be possible to construct hazard maps and quantify the disasters as well as to coordinate the different systems. It would also be possible to establish a regional database.
ICTs such as mobile phones have been successfully used in disaster management. In 2007 during the floods in Uganda, ITU deployed telecommunications equipment to save hundreds of lives. More deaths have been averted using mobile phones on Lake Victoria.
It has been a year since Zain, one of the leading mobile network operators in Africa, teamed up with Ericsson and the GSMA development Fund to use Information Communication Technology (ICT) to save lives on Lake Victoria.
Now the project has proof that using mobile phones with the emergency maritime communication system that has been established by Zain can save the 200,000 fishers’ lives on lake Victoria.
Fred Masadde, external affairs manager Zain Uganda says they are handing over the project to the Lake Victoria Basin Commission to become a Public Private partnership. Some data suggests that 5,000 people die on the Lake every year.
The project works through a telecommunications network that captures all the data, a model rescue coordination centre where the coordinates are sent and triangulated to the search and rescue service centre to implement the rescue.
Masadde says the project was started as a social responsibility programme but since Zain is a business venture they think the governments in the region should take it up and scale it up to cover the whole lake Victoria.
Tullow Oil Company has also as part of its social responsibility been able to save lives with the rescue services it set up on Lake Albert. The community was equipped with a mobile phone and a rescue boat.
Other mobile phone operators like Safaricom, MTN and Vodacom in east Africa could join by using Zain’s base stations to share the sites and limit carbon footprint but also it makes a lot of economic sense.
But also the system could be used by such organizations as the Lake Vitoria Environment Management programme (LVEMP) to register and monitor boats on the lake, monitoring the fish catch everyday and integrated in the command and control system for the police to use.
Ends-

Like smoking climate change affects the innocent.


Like smoking climate change affects the innocent.
By Ronald Musoke

Not all environmental problems experienced across Uganda are a direct result of climate change, a natural resources management specialist said recently at an International Climate Change Congress.

Dr Festus Bagoora who is also a senior official at the National Environment Management Authority, Uganda’s environmental regulatory agency, said there is urgent need to differentiate between problems associated with climate change and those which are linked to environmental degradation.

Speaking at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) African Initiative-organised four-day conference in Kampala, Dr Bagoora noted that the impact of climate change will be greater in communities where environmental degradation has been rampant.

“One of the concerns is that as an adaptation measure [to climate change], so many Ugandans are running towards fragile ecosystems such as lake shores, river banks, wetlands and forest reserves [to grow crops].

“This coping mechanism may help in the short run but the consequences will even be greater once these strategic ecosystems disappear. We need to tell our people that a coping mechanism that involves running to these fragile areas in the long-run will prove disastrous,” Bagoora said.

He noted that environmental degradation is as bad as climate change and there is urgent need to clearly distinguish the two.

He added that for Ugandans to adapt well to climate change there is need to revamp the meteorological department and reform Uganda’s land use policies.

Dr Alvin Curling, a senior fellow at CIGI likened climate change effects to those associated with smoking.

“Like smoking, it [climate change] does not only affect those partaking in the destruction of the environment but also includes those who are innocent.”

Dr Curling noted that environmental destruction was mostly a result of poor governance and legislation. He urged the citizenry to always hold their leaders accountable for their actions.

“When individuals are elected into offices, the people should hold those elected officers more accountable. This should be done using laws that are also enforceable,” he said.

The African Initiative Congress on Climate Change organised from November 1-4 brought together more than 400 government officials, local government leaders, academics and representatives from multilateral and donor organisations in addition to 300 university and secondary students with the intention of fostering an inclusive dialogue that builds on the existing local knowledge base; and using the results to form guidelines for a nation-wide strategy for adapting to climate change.

Memorable quotes at Climate Change African Initiative Congress in Uganda

Some memorable quotes on climate change at the African Initiative Congress held in Uganda.

By Esther Nakkazi

I too have attended so many conferences but this one is different, the excitement in this hall.... never have I seen so many people raise their hands to ask questions and contribute or place yellow cards on the information boards, this has truly been a new model of participation; John English the Executive director CIGI.

We should build capacities of communities at risk and strengthen knowledge sharing to tap into the indigenous knowledge. Stories from the vulnerable communities are very useful; Gilbert a presenter from Kenya.

May be to solve climate change Uganda should reduce on the number of vehicles in the country? They consume fuel and emit gasses;A female participant.
We could explore cars that use water but not to ban cars all together; responded a participant.

Some of the climate change adaptation strategies include marrying off young girls to older men. Some family do it in order to survive hunger.  If Egypt is using the water (from River Nile that has its source in Uganda) why shouldn’t we also use this water? Participant from eastern Uganda.

If a wetland is not gazetted it is still a wetland and should not be reclaimed; official from National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

We have increased prevalence of HIV because of climate change. In my district (Busia) - we have rural-urban migration due to climate change. When people move to the town, they get new partners but still go back to their wives in the villages, which creates a social network with many partners to facilitate spread of HIV; Busia environment officer.

There are some good things that are happening because of climate change but they are never talked about. For instance in Arua mango trees are fruiting twice as a result of climate change; Participant from Arua district:

We need to differentiate between the impact of climate change and environmental degradation. The former exuberates climate change. They are equally terrible. Kabale’s temperatures were 9 degrees Celsius in the 1960’s and the mist used to dissipate at midday. It is now dissipating at 9.00am. What else do we need to see to believe climate change; NEMA official.

When I fly I always see clouds foaming on forests but they are not on buildings. There was a company that came to parliament to sell solar lanterns most of my colleagues just passed by not interested at all; Jessica Eriyo, state minister for environment.

How are we going to transfer resources from polluters to non-polluters. We should talk about how this is going to be achieved and not leave it to politicians; Dr. Richard Taylor, Department of Geography, University College of London.

We formed the parliamentary forum on climate change for Members of Parliament who have a passion for it. As a committee on natural resources we thought issues of climate change would be lost to more pressing issues like oil, energy and minerals. This kind of forum is intended to bring people together and supposed to use their expertise on issues of climate change.

We might be the first parliament in Africa to form this kind of committee. Uganda holds the chair of the African Union committee on climate change. We have the moral obligation to not only set the pace but an initiative to form the first proactive forum for parliamentarians on climate change in Africa. We are doing this so that our brothers in other African parliaments follow suit.Winnie Matsiko, Member of Parliament.

We need to streamline and integrate climate change into our school curriculums. There is no institution or faculty in Uganda offering climate change courses. We can do more to strengthen the educational responses to this so that the issues of environmental change and climate change are part of us; Student participant.

Tree planting is an expensive investment. It is very hard to motivate everyone to plant trees. Those who have planted trees are going to be billionaires in the next decade.We want to formulate a policy on tree planting. It is an expensive venture but we want to scale it up and also set up a tree fund; Jessica Eriyo.

We have created a dialogue, which should be emulated in our districts. As people go to Copenhagen to seal the deal just know that we have sealed the deal because right now we have exchanged ideas and agreed to work together: Prof Nelson Sewankambo, the chairman African Initiative.

This is a major landmark in the history of Africa, climate change and in Uganda. We have each benefited. It is rare to have a conference full to the end and an attentive audience. This shows the importance of the topic and the problem; Jessica Eriyo.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Integrate climate change in School curriculums-Uganda youth say

By Esther Nakkazi
Uganda held a national conference on climate change that brought together representatives from all the districts in the country. The African Initiative Congress on climate Change (1-4th November) started with the opening by Maria Mutgamba, the minister of water and environment. About 750 people participated in the conference, half of them students from all over the country.
I will not write about the obvious- (all the papers presented were said to be available on the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) website but what was unique about this conference. Noteworthy was the tree hugger poem, the student participation and sustained interest throughout the conference by participants.
It should also be noted that Uganda’s agenda for the 2009 climate change Copenhagen conference was clearly spelt out. (Check out another article on this blog.)
I liked the poem by Ife- Piankhi about hugging a tree. It was well composed and felt so urgent you would actually hug a tree if it were near you; only we were in a conference room at Speke resort Munyonyo. I liked this poem because of its uniqueness- we are kind of fed up with the usual message of ‘plant trees’ to save the environment.
Ife’s poem was simple- go out hug a tree- that in my opinion also meant that we need more trees. Can we hug what we do not have? NO. or what we do not care for? NO. During the week I actually felt an urge to hug a tree.
In Uganda we have just had a very successful campaign to become a friend of the gorilla. This resonated well with becoming a friend of a tree. My tree friend would be the beautiful gigantic oak tree- it is so big I wonder if I would be able to hug it.
Students’ participation:
It started with one brave hand; the question was unclear and probably targeted to the wrong panelist. But that was it! We then had many interesting questions from the students. When the congress got into small working groups, the students were ready to volunteer as rapportuers.
The classic one was a student who told us that we were comfortably sited in this hall, which was built on a swamp. That all of us also had mineral water plastic bottles but there is no plastic processing plant in Uganda.
Other students were concerned about the polythene bag (kaveera) ban that is never fully implemented, land laws, tree planting programmes in schools etc. It is interesting that youth were very enthusiastic about climate change and knew quite a lot when many adults don’t get it at all!
There was consensus from the students: that climate change should be integrated in the school curriculum. This was a serious recommendation that also caught the ear of the members of parliament who were present and Jessica Eriyo, the minister of state for environment.
For the 300 students who attended the conference, the invitations were deliberate, the topics well thought out and with good intentions. Organizers started with having a student’s representative on the organizing team. Then they held a nationwide essay competition with the winner emerging from Arua district.
Prof. Nelson Sewankambo, the director African Initiative said: -the participation of youth in this conference is amazing. We have to engage the youth if we have to make a successful intervention in climate change.
Climate change intervention is about intergenerational equity or inequity so we have to engage the youth. The major question is -How can we consume with out disadvantaging future generations? –asked Sewankambo.
The youth raised issues, asked questions and their hands shot up to volunteer for the different tasks including rapportuering, making presentations etc.
“We must keep this spirit burning and excite the young people, so that they can be active participants. They are showing an example of what should be done in the face of climate change. Most of us, our thinking has become rigid but the youth are change agents and will play a role in the way we intervene.”
Prof John English, the executive director CIGI said it is only the youth who will take the debate forward.
Ends.

African Initiative Congress on Climate Change

Uganda held a national conference on climate change that brought together representatives from all the districts in the country. The African Initiative Congress on climate Change (1-4th November) started with the opening by Maria Mutgamba, the minister of water and environment.

About 750 people participated in the conference, half of them students from all over the country.
I bring you some of the issues that were highlighted at this conference. Ronald Musoke a journalist with EnvironConserve also contributes a story to this blog.