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  • Writer's pictureCecilia Birungi

Cecilia's story: health, water and sanitation are intrinsically related

By Cecilia Birungi, District Health Inspector, Kabarole district, Uganda.

First published on the Toilet Talks website

Lack of water and sanitation services are serious safety issues and addressing these challenges is a daily responsibility for me. I’ve been working in this field for 17 years and I feel very proud when I see that the communities that I serve are finally living free from sanitation-related diseases.

It's not enough

However, my greatest frustration is that it’s not enough. Despite much effort that is put into prevention, the public still gets infected with communicable diseases. The lack of sanitation services drives the burden of contagious illnesses. The majority of the district sanitation facilities are limited, and some are shared amongst households, contributing to sanitation related sickness like diarrhea. Poor medical waste handling has also increased the chance of transmission for highly contagious infections.

Covid did make things more difficult

COVID-19 has added to our difficulties. Movements have been restricted that have hindered me from carrying out certain activities like home inspections to check families’ latrines and ensure they have soap and water readily available. If these things are not up to standard, I discuss options for improving their home’s sanitation and hygiene.

My sister is my inspiration

As a child, I was inspired by my elder sister who is a Public Health Specialist, working with the Ministry of Water and Environment in Uganda. She taught us to always thoroughly wash with soap and clean water before eating and after toilet visits. It influenced me to work in health promotion and study Environmental Health Science. I would like to see our communities practice better sanitation and hygiene behaviors that promote good health and I believe this will prolong life expectancy.

Cecilia and her colleagues distributing personal protective equipment at the district health facility.

Connection is key

We are blessed to have IRC as our most reliable and trusted WASH partner and we plan together to achieve district target goals. IRC has always been there for us and they have prioritized service delivery both in the communities and healthcare facilities.

In the future, I am keen to see the government do more to support the very poorest who cannot afford to provide suitable sanitation facilities. I also want more community engagement to advocate a positive mindset change as far as sanitation and hygiene is concerned.

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