January 12, 2016 – Latest Report has arrived

We have received a report on the completion of boreholes drilled in Kotido District in the northern region of Uganda. The pictures we received (below) help to tell the human story…



FROM MILL HILL KARAMOJA, UGANDA                   Water in a dry land


Kotido Diocese in the north east of Uganda, bordering Sudan and Kenya, covers the three civil districts of Abim, Kaabong, and Kotido.   Recently there was a cholera epidemic in Kotido District.  Over five hundred people were infected and around twenty died.*  The main reason for the outbreak was the polluted water sources.  One homestead, situated near a pond, was badly affected because people used the ground between their homestead and the pond as an open toilet.  When the rain came it washed all the excrement into the pond where people drew water from.

The people who inhabit this isolated area of Uganda, Karamoja, are called the Karimojong.   They have  remained attached to their traditional way of life and have been largely unaffected by western influences, as much of the rest of Uganda and Africa have been.  The men and boys spend their time herding their cattle and moving around searching for grazing land and water.  The women and girls stay at home, raise the children, cultivate sorghum (a large grain crop which can withstand drought), build and maintain the homestead, and collect water.

The environment is quite harsh, semi desert in fact.    Savannah land stretches into the distance with thorn bushes covering the landscape, big vicious like thorns which can give you a nasty wound if they tear your flesh.    Here and there you find homesteads, circular in shape.  They are barricaded on the outside by thick walls of sticks interspersed with thorns.  This is to protect the home from armed cattle raiders who launch periodic attacks.  Inside there are numerous small wattle and daub huts surrounding a central area where cattle are kept during the wet season when they are brought from the distant grazing areas.   

Water is at a premium in the whole area.    There is some rain every year, but nothing like in Europe.   It tends to be torrential rain, which rushes down the dry river beds and fills up the ponds.   Once the rains have stopped, there is no longer any water in the “rivers”.   Women go to the ponds to collect water.  The problem is that cattle also go there, people bathe there, and the water is soon polluted.   All kinds of water born diseases afflict the more vulnerable members of society.   Fairly soon the ponds dry up because of the fast rate of evaporation, due to the heat and the strong dry winds.   The women then have to travel long distances to look for water.  

The advent of the Borehole has been a tremendous blessing to the people.    Sites are selected by geological survey and in the low lying areas where water sinks into the underground water reservoirs during the wet season.   Where there is a fair amount of greenery in the area it is a sign that the water is fresh.   Otherwise it can often have a high saline content which makes it unsuitable for use.   A drill mounted on a truck drills through the soil and rock down to a maximum depth of  300 feet.   Often water is found at 100 feet.   The drillers are able to measure the yield of the Borehole, and if it is good then plastic casing pipes are put down the hole to prevent it from falling in.   The water pipes with a pumping cylinder on the end are fed into the hole, and inside them are half inch rods which are attached to a plunger that draws the water up and prevents it from running back.   A hand pump is fitted at the surface level where the people come to pump up the clean water into their containers.
Most people have to go at least one mile, and often further, to reach a borehole, as the numbers of functioning boreholes are few.  Abim District, with a population of 55,200 and an area of 2351 square km , has 176 boreholes operating most of the time.  Kaabong District with a population of 345,300, and an area of 5886 square km, has 257;  and Kotido District with a population of 204,600, and an area of 2866 square km,  has 317.   If there is a pond next door, albeit polluted, the women and girls will collect water there and not walk to the borehole far away.

SPICMA has already funded five boreholes in 2008, twenty five boreholes in the Diocese in 2009/10.  This is a significant contribution to the total number of the boreholes in the Diocese.   This present ongoing project will now add another twenty five.   All boreholes drilled in the area are registered with the Ugandan Ministry of water resources.   There will still be room for further interventions as there are still areas which are poorly covered.

(*Official figures do not reflect the total as a number of people died in the grazing areas)