Katine ‘ideal home’ winner sets standards in national hygiene drive
In a campaign to promote household and personal hygiene in Uganda, a Katine family has won an “ideal homestead” competition. How did they do it?
Almost everything about Charles Adengu’s home tempts you to look again. None more so than the five large, terrace-thatched huts with smooth walls painted with motorcycles, footballs, cattle or juicy-looking pineapples. A sixth, smaller hut, just outside the main compound, looks like a teenager’s fancy dwelling until you are told that it is actually the pit latrine, with a yellow jerry-can for hand-washing suspended from a stick in the ground nearby.
Riding in on a sunny Thursday afternoon, I am struck by the cool, fresh air thanks to numerous trees that cast swaying shadows on the brown earth of an impeccably clean, well-swept compound in Katine, north eastern Uganda. I had not heard of Adengu until I was given his name a few hours earlier by the African Medical Research Foundation (Amref), which with the Guardian is supporting the Katine community development project. Adengu, with his family, is the proud winner of an “ideal home” competition in Katine, and sitting on the brick-bordered veranda of one of the huts, with its smooth, cow dung-plastered floor, I can see why.
“I was happy that my home was selected as the cleanest because I have always tried to have a spacious, clean homestead; even [our] previous homestead was nearly as good as this one,” Adengu tells me later under bright moonlight, after he has returned from grazing cattle.
Besides the cleanliness of the homestead, which is surrounded by hedges, Adengu says the water and sanitation inspectors from both Katine and Soroti district were impressed because they found “everything” that a home should have – pit latrine, bath shelter, rubbish pit, granary, chicken house, rack for utensils, etc.
“They said this home has a very good temperature because we have planted many trees,” says Adengu, who estimates he is in his late 50s. “[They] provide shade for people to relax and children to play on hot days.”
Selection of homes like Adengu’s is the culmination of a process aimed at promoting household and personal hygiene, according to Stephen Adowa, assistant water officer for hygiene and sanitation education in Soroti district. As part of Uganda’s national sanitation week, the district organises competitions and awards prizes to the best homesteads. In the past, annual activities were spread across the entire district; but, since 2008, limited funding (UShs 3.7m or $1,800 a year) has forced authorities to choose one “model” village in a particular sub-county.
“Because of limited funds, we decided to concentrate on a smaller area so as to realise a bigger impact,” says Adowa. This year the “model” village is Okulonyo, in Olio sub-county, about 60km from Katine. It was selected because it had very poor indicators: latrine coverage stood at barely 7% compared, for instance, to 39% in Katine.
In collaboration with the sub-county and village leadership, Adowa’s team carried out a sustained campaign in Okulonyo, educating residents about the importance of hygiene and sanitation in keeping healthy and avoiding and containing diseases such as diarrhoea.
The finale involves homesteads tidying up their homes, with a judging panel due to visit and pick out the top five to receive prizes. But because of the strong partnership with Amref, the district authorities also decided to recognise the best home in Katine which led to the selection of Adengu’s home about three months ago.
Since the Katine project started in 2007, Amref has worked with communities to increase clean water supplies and improve sanitation. Parish sanitation committees, facilitated by Amref, have stepped up education in areas such as use of pit latrines and the need to wash hands after each visit. Amref, for instance, has given schools and parishes kits for digging pit latrines.
The competition provides further motivation for people to take the messages seriously. Adengu acknowledges that, although he has always valued hygiene, the Amref project has given him new ideas, such as digging a deeper pit latrine and building a rack for washed utensils to keep them off the ground.
“These competitions are very effective in promoting hygiene and sanitation,” says Stephen Adowa. “People get motivated by these prizes and it involves the local leaders and [encourages] all households in the village to improve their homesteads.”