Kamwenge. The Catholic and Anglican churches in Kamwenge District have teamed up to improve hygiene and sanitation in homes with a key message of washing hands with soap after using the toilet.
As its health tips, the Catholic Church uses the book of Deuteronomy 23:12-13; “Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment, have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement”.
With this verse, Rev Fr Kayondo says: “The Bible is very clear; each family must have a latrine and if God visits your family and finds that you are unclean, he cannot help”.
Fr Kayondo says after undergoing training by district officials a year ago, he together with other church leaders in small Christian communities started moving house-to-house, educating people about hygiene.
“We divided the parishes into four zones and these parishes are in Buhanda and Kicheche sub-counties in Kitagwenda County. In every zone, we pick one village to work as a model and a small Christian community,” he says.
Fr Kayondo says each village has between 35 and 50 families, which are used to demonstrate and reach others.
“Most of the government programmes have been failing but when the church gets involved, they cannot fail because we have the biggest platform and people believe in us,” he says. Fr Kayondo says residents have been encouraged to embrace the project because it is spiritual and people were urged not to mix washed utensils with dirty ones.
“We make follow-ups to ensure that households are embracing the campaign. However, hand washing coverage is still low. We still need to change people’s mind set,” he says.
Religious leaders are implementing this project in five Catholic and five Anglican parishes in the district.
The Catholic parishes include Kitagwenda, Mahyoro, Kichwamba, Kicheche and Holy Trinity. The Anglican parishes include Ntuntu, Nyakasenyi, Kichwamba, Kibumbi and Nkoma.
Both Churches coordinate their activities to ensure they do not overlap.
Rev Canon Benon Rwabushari of Ntuntu Parish says the Anglican Church has mainly used the Mothers’ Union to promote the campaign.
“We have plans of going to our schools to educate pupils and teachers about hygiene both at school and in their homes,” he says, adding that the fathers’ union will also come on board.
“Our people fall sick because of ignorance. Diseases related to hygiene should not exist,” he observes.
Ms Ketty Bagarukayo, a resident of Katonzi Village, Kicheche Sub-county, says the campaign has already produced results.
“Our children used to suffer from diarrhoea and typhoid but we did not know it was due to poor hygiene. We also used to drink unboiled water,” Bagarukayo says, adding that after the sensitisation, their children no longer fall sick regularly.
Mr Federiko Tumusiime, a resident of Katonzi Village, says their children used to fall sick more often and they were made to believe they were being bewitched.
“Our children were passing out watery stool and we could not think about going to the hospital but would go to the witch doctors,” he says.
Ms Trina Kyomuhendo, a health worker at Kicheche Health Centre III, says the church intervention is paying off.
“Cases related to poor hygiene have reduced because we have taps where patients and health workers wash their hands and we have safe water for drinking,” she says.
According to the World Water Atlas, the district has 2,495 domestic water points, which serve a population of 373,888. According to the 2014 census, 47.3 per cent of households in the district collect drinking water from unsafe sources and 2.8 per cent households lack toilet facilities.
Compiled by Scovia Atuhaire, Felix Basiime & Enid Ninsiima