Uganda is one of three target zones where UNSW aims to improve the lives of one million people by 2025. This ambitious effort is coordinated by UNSW’s Institute for Global Development and includes Uganda's Gulu University as a priority partner.

As part of this objective, University of Southampton, Gulu University and UNSW have recently published a report on access to safe water and sanitation in Uganda.

The Report identifies priority areas for research and data generation that can improve equitable access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)—with a specific focus on gender.

Collecting and analysing the data

Evaluating Gendered Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Access in Uganda presents the key findings from a 10-month collaboration between a range of academic, government and non-governmental stakeholders. The project focused on combining existing population data with Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) survey data and reviewing existing stakeholder data sources to produce a series of recommendations for future projects.

On the research method and outcomes, University of Southampton Visiting Professor and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Assistant Professor Dr Claire Dooley said, "By bringing together practitioners, implementers and researchers, we were able to identify priority areas for data collection and research, and make clear recommendations for pushing gender equity forward in the future."

Initial plans to host an in-person workshop with Ugandan government, academic, NGOs and community organisations in Gulu had to be altered due to COVID-19. Instead, from 17 December 2020 – 29 January 2021, an online survey on Gendered WASH Access in Uganda was undertaken to collect information on the data sources that are currently being utilised by Government, academics and non-government organisations. On 17-19 March 2021 the survey findings were presented during an online workshop where participants discussed the key barriers to gender equity in access to safe WASH, WASH data availability and needs in Uganda, and the priorities and needs until the year 2030.

University of Southampton Postgraduate Researcher and WorldPop Research Assistant Mair Thomas said, “By engaging with stakeholders from across Uganda the difficulties faced in striving for gender equity in WASH were highlighted, especially when considering the breadth of circumstances and realities of low-resource settings. Education and community engagement remain paramount!”

Future projects to be guided by evidence

The final Report recommends seven key topics for future research projects and also provides a series of recommendations for successful project approaches.

Researchers suggest that all future projects include community engagement and consultation at all stages and that significant resources be allocated to disseminate findings directly to participating communities.

They also found that workshop participants indicated the critical need for future projects to include gender equity policies for staff and data collection activities, training in data collection and data analysis, and multi-stakeholder involvement and collaboration.

WASH and Gender in Uganda

In 2016, 200 million hours were spent by Ugandan women and girls collecting water. Moreover, 86% of girls in Uganda miss school due to a lack of sanitation facilities, almost half of Ugandans use limited or unimproved drinking water supplies and 58% use unimproved (open, unsafe, and unhygienic) sanitation facilities.

As Gulu University Department of Biosystems Engineering Senior Lecturer Dr Martine Nyeko says: "Safe, clean water and appropriate sanitation is wealth".

Reliable data and information on gender differentials is required to formulate robust water and sanitation gender policy, but there is a problem accessing such data in Uganda. The country relies on data that is aggregated for large spatial areas and summarised for only few metrics for large demographic groups.

This new Report will help to identify and prioritise next steps to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 targets at a national level in Uganda.

UNSW Chief Investigator Dr Andrew Dansie said, “With major progress to be made under Sustainable Development Goal 6 in Uganda, it has been rewarding to build on the UNSW-Gulu relationship and to engage with so many local partners to really understand the state of knowledge and needs on the ground in Uganda."

This project was supported by a Global Challenge Fund Pump Priming Award. The collaboration between UNSW, University of Southampton and Gulu University was identified with thanks to the support of UNSW’s ‘Women in Engineering Visitor Funding Scheme’  - which enabled Dr. Claire Dooley (University of Southampton / London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) to visit UNSW Sydney for 4 weeks in 2019.