Uganda, Africa – many may picture dry arid desert parched from lack of water. But, Uganda is alive with a complex system of rivers that run through its land like veins. Driven by two wet seasons each year, these rivers give way to Lake Victoria, the country’s major water source (1). After all, many residents have a life that revolves around a river, lake, or stream. From bathing to drinking, to washing clothes and playing on a hot day, the river is used for everything (2).
But, even while seemingly surrounded by water, one-third of Ugandans are plagued by insufficient or nonexistent access to clean water (3). While the same source is used by humans for their daily needs, it is also used by cows for drinking and pigs for bathing (2). The use of contaminated water has led to consequences such as high child mortality rates, high health care expenditures, and a lack of female involvement in economic contribution (3,4).
The solution to this water crisis would have to go farther beyond a supply of charitable water tanks. The solution for Uganda needs to be sustainable. This is why Masereka Adidas and Sinamakosa Isaac founded the first international branch of IDEAS For Us (IDEAS) in 2012 (5). Adidas, a former medic, and Isaac, a former civil society worker, saw the existing water issue in their country exacerbated by toxic industrial run-off. After meeting with environmentalist and IDEAS leader Clayton Louis Ferrara, Adidas and Isaac began the paperwork, establishing IDEAS Uganda in the Kasese District (5). Focused on improving the lives of generations to come, Adidas and Isaac established themselves in primary and secondary schools. The schools now serve as community gathering spaces, allowing IDEAS Uganda to work on action projects (5).
The Idea and the Student
Far away from the rivers of Uganda, there was a student on the coast of Florida in the United States. Her name is Nika Hosseini and in 2015, long before becoming a student at UF Law, she attended Spruce Creek High School (6). There she attended a seminar about the declining state of water quality across Africa. Deciding to take action, Hosseini connected with IDEAS For Us. With funding from the Clinton Foundation and a strong pair of engineers, Hosseini and IDEAS Uganda were paired.
Sustainability was one of the largest drivers behind Hosseini’s solution. Because of this, it was no coincidence that both had three main pillars. Hosseini made clear that the solution had to provide “clean water, accessible water, and reliable water” (6). She knew that, without these three essential factors, the installed system would simply put a band-aid on an issue she wanted to help fix for generations.
“I wanted it to be clean water, accessible water, and reliable water”-Nika Hosseini
There are two main components to the physical solution installed by Hosseini and IDEAS Uganda. It begins with shallow built wells. According to IDEAS Uganda, this is to avoid directly tapping the main river (2). From there, the water flows into a filter which then feeds into a pump. Both the filter and pump are housed in a small structure outfitted with power-providing solar panels. These solar panels thrive on the intense sun Uganda receives. UNICEF calls the installation of such solar-powered machinery an “ideal long-term solution” to improving water quality in the sunny region (3). This long-term solution installed by Hosseini and her team now services three small villages, totaling about 6,000 people. IDEAS Uganda hopes to expand the project further through the installation of identical systems in other areas, as well as making improvements on the existing system, expanding the radius of service (2,6).
Light at the End of the Tunnel
By serving 6,000 Ugandans, Hosseini’s solution has not just provided clean water, she provided a new way of life. Women and children who once spent hours walking unsafe paths in search of water no longer had to look farther than their backyards. Children would now be able to stay in school, and women begin to have a bigger role in society. Clean water will also lower the number of water borne infections as well. With these diseases becoming less frequent, health care costs will also drop significantly, leaving more funds to be put toward other communal goals.
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