By Elizabeth Buhungiro

Menstrual hygiene is our right.

A pupil at Kidilani Primary School holds up a sign during commissioning of WASH structures in March 2022.

In 2020, Lifeline and charity: water formed a partnership to improve universal access to clean water in Apac and Kwania districts of Uganda. Through this partnership, Lifeline was awarded a grant in 2021 to fund the construction and rehabilitation of 49 boreholes with handpumps, and to provide new latrines to four schools. 

It was critical to do a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) overhaul in the schools to alleviate the rampancy of diseases and school absenteeism associated with lack of safe sanitation structures.  


Community gathers around borehole

Borehole commissioning at Atule Annex Primary School in Kwania district.

At Kidilani Primary School in Apac District, whenever a child used a latrine they had to contend with the indignity of having no privacy, and potentially contracting a hygiene-related disease. The old structure lacked a hand-washing facility which, according to Eunice Atim, the school Headteacher, resulted in rampant diarrhea cases.  

“We had so many problems. Our old latrine has no squat hole cover and no vent pipe. Flies would come from the latrine to our food. The changing bathroom was not good, and passersby would see us from outside,” said 16-year-old Pamela Atim, a pupil at the school. 

At Atule Annex Primary School in Kwania District it was reported that the teacher turnover rate was high. Paska Anyango, one of Lifeline’s Sanitation and Hygiene Officers, found out that teachers left because they could not stand sharing one doorless temporary latrine with over 600 pupils. Worse still, there was only one borehole shared by four villages, the school, and the trading center.

At Alekolil Primary School the latrine block for pupils was dilapidated and on the verge of collapsing. Deputy Headteacher Francis Ekwang said that the situation posed several challenges. “It was unimaginable to run a school without safe sanitary facilities for the learners. The pupils, especially boys, had resorted to open defecation for fear of falling into the latrine pit. The girls had no washrooms during their menstruation, and they preferred dodging school,” Ekwang explained.  

Lifeline and charity: water constructed eight drainable latrine blocks in four schools to allow for gender privacy. Each latrine block contains five stances and a handwashing facility. Additionally, the girls’ blocks were built with a changing room to improve menstrual hygiene management.  The communities and schools also received basic sanitation, hygiene, and water source management training. 

The WASH structures were commissioned in March 2022 and school administrators are already reporting a significant reduction in diarrhea cases, improved dignity for girls during menstruation, and, overall, a better schooling experience. 

Before and after improved latrine construction at Alekolil Primary School in Apac District

Before and after improved latrine construction at Alekolil Primary School in Apac District.

According to John Paul Owiny, Lifeline’s Senior Program Manager – WASH, it is commonplace for schools in rural Uganda to operate without proper WASH facilities due to low funding.

For this reason, Ekwang called the construction of WASH structures at Alekolil Primary School “a miracle intervention,” explaining “one might think providing school latrines and a borehole is a minor job with a minor impact, but believe me, it’s important and does contribute greatly to improved health and increased school attendance, especially for girls.”


About Lifeline and charity: water Partnership 

Lifeline and charity: water first became partners in 2008. They came together again in March 2020 at the start of complete COVID lockdown in Uganda, when access to water supply was more crucial than ever before.

About charity: water

charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries. Learn more about their work on their website here