Tom Farley, SVP, Development
International Needs US

International Needs Uganda staff members Ivan Muzanganda and Sarah Lwanga were telling me thatHealth_Sanitation_UgandaMother_Small the family I was about to meet had invited us to visit with them at their home outside of Kiyindi near Lake Victoria in Uganda. The poignant encounter I was about to have was eight days into a survey of the water and sanitation needs of the villages sponsored children call home.

“Oli otya,” said Ivan, as we approached the clay brick home, greeting the mother and son who were sitting outside the door.

The pair greeted me with the warm welcome I had come to expect from the friendly and hospitable people of Uganda.

Health_Sanitation_UgandaSon_SmallIvan then guided me toward the family’s toilet and began to explain the soil conditions and other environmental factors that would have to be considered when building latrines in that area. As were most of the outdoor latrines I had surveyed, this one consisted of a crudely dug hole several feet deep and partially camouflaged with leaves.

Just as we approached the latrine, the head of the house emerged. Even though we clearly walked upon the site at the wrong time, Ivan greeted the man and told him that I was the visitor they were expecting. The man smiled broadly and began walking toward me.

I quickly turned to see what the Ugandan staff of International Needs were doing as the man approached, and noticed that they both had their arms tightly crossed. But the man wasn’t heading toward them – he was walking straight toward me.


When he was ten feet in front of me he stretched his arms and hands toward me!

The World Health Organization describes an “unimproved latrine” as something that does “not ensure a hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact [including] pit latrines without slabs or platforms or open pit,” which is exactly what the man just walked out of.

Seeing the man’s hands stretched out to greet me, I shoved my hands into my pants pockets.

Health_Sanitation_UgandaFather_SmallOur host recognized my fear and stopped, his arms still extended. Then with a good natured grin, he clasped his hands together and touched them to his heart. Deeply embarrassed, I mimicked his gracious gesture, then thanked him.

Thirty (30) million people in Uganda and 22 million people in Ghana do not have access to a sanitation facility. International Needs Uganda, like its partners elsewhere in Africa, assists families in the construction of latrines if a family requests their assistance and will join in the work. The family’s contribution may be digging a pit and/or providing some materials for the covered latrine. In doing so,Newsletter_2-2016Uganda-GhanaToilet_Small_opt self-reliance and choice of the family are respected.

In May 2016, International Needs US will invite people to give toward the water and sanitation needs our partners across the world are working to resolve. Look for more information about “It Takes a Child to Raise a Village” in a few months.

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