Patients and expectant mothers in Kakingol Parish in Katikekile Sub-county in Moroto District have shunned getting treatment at Kakingole Health Centre III for fear of being told to collect water to run the hospital.
The patients say they are asked to collect water from about two kilometres away for use by the health centre before they are offered treatment.
During a visit by this newspaper to the health centre last week, it was established that expectant mothers were also being asked to collect water. Other breastfeeding mothers carrying babies on their backs were seen carrying jerrycans of water.
Shunning the facility
Ms Mary Napeyok, one of the village health teams’ officer for Kakingol Village, says majority expectant mothers are giving birth from home and others at the hands of traditional birth attendants for fear of being subjected to hard labour.
“Our mothers have now resorted to delivering at home instead of going to the health centre because at the health centre, they required to fetch water before they are attended to by any doctor or a nurse at the facility,” she says.
Patricia Ilukol, an expectant mother, says fetching water for the health centre’s use weakens her and threatens the life of her unborn baby.
“First of all, walking alone from our homes to the health centre is difficult. By the time someone reaches to the health centre, she is already weak and now again going to mountains with a 20-litre jerrycan to fetch water is like a punishment for us,” she says.
Ms Matilida Nangiro, another mother, appeals to government to help and address shortage of water in Kakingol Health Centre 111.
“We don’t know whether government is aware that we also exit as Tepeth community because all those years we survive like animals,” she says.
Ms Grace Nakut, another mother, says if Kenya was very nearer, they would have crossed to seek services there.
Mr Michael Akol, the LC3 chairperson of Katikekile Sub-county where Kakingol Health Centre III is located, says the health centre is operating in dire conditions and that they might be forced to close it.
“Health workers posted to the health centre are threatening to leave it because they can’t continue sharing water with dangerous wild animals in logged area,” he says.
Ms Betty Aketch, one of the nurses at the health facility, says the situation that they are living in at the facility is harsh, adding that they are sharing dirty water with animals.
“We don’t have even a single borehole. We used to depend on rainwater but now there is no rain, it’s hard,” she adds.
The real issue
The environmental health inspector for Kakingol, Mr Samuel Koryang, says the health facility has continued to experience water shortage for more than one-and-half years after the gravitational water scheme constructed by Unicef stopped working.
He says the facility has been relying on rainwater that the facility always harvests during the rainy season but now all water tanks have dried up, leaving the health facility without water.
“It is now compulsory in the health centre that any patient who comes for treatment has to first collect water in one of the streams for cleaning the health centre which is a burden to them,” he says.
The Moroto District health officer, Mr Andrew Ilukol, says expectant mothers have resorted to delivering under the care of traditional birth attendants which he said puts at risk the health of the mother and the baby.
“We have talked about lack of water in Kakingole Health Centre and it is now beyond us and much as we are trying our best to treat people, we cannot do much without people having access to clean water. It is impossible,” he says.
On 25 September, this newspaper published a story about patients in the same health centre using sand to ‘clean’ maternity ward. The story forced the team from the Ministry of Water led by the Assistant Commissioner Internal Audit, Mr Charles Oryema, to visit the facility and confirmed harsh conditions under which patients go through. He promised to work with line ministries to connect water to the facility but since then, nothing has been seen on the ground. Kakingol Health Centre III is about 50 kilometres northeast of Moroto Town. The government facility serves a population of 30,000 people, including Kenyan Turkana pastoralists, who graze their cattle in Uganda.