YouthMappers Supporting Marginalized Refugee Communities Through Mapping of WASH Facilities
Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is a necessity, and thus a human right essential to everyone's dignity and safety. Safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, and basic hygiene can improve health, lower mortality rates, and increase work and educational achievements. As part of their fieldwork program, YouthMappers provided micro-grants to their chapters to help communities. In line with this, the Makerere University Chapter of Geo YouthMappers completed a project titled "Innovative Field Mapping of Health Vulnerability in Marginalized Kampala Refugee Communities - Reproducing Ramani Huria Field Data Model in Water and Sanitation Mapping." The goal of this project was to increase the availability of high-quality data and analytical resources to help with future planning and prioritization of water, sanitation, and poverty reduction efforts. This was accomplished by employing mobile GIS techniques to collect and modify OpenStreetMap data with a focus on WASH facilities. The project was carried out in Kisenyi II Parish, which is located in Kampala's Central Business District and is considered one of the city's largest refugee settlements, populated primarily by Somalis and a few Karamojong’s.
Throughout the project's six (6) month duration, 40 students—20 males and 20 females—were trained in topics such as WASH systems, mobile GIS techniques, particularly Kobo Collect, and the use of OSM in humanitarian efforts, among others, from which a WASH data model was produced and used for subsequent works.
Nampeera Lynn Ephrance, a project participant and a Land Surveying and Geomatics student at Makerere University, shared her experience: "Previously, before leaving for the fieldwork, we had training by the project organizers in collaboration with the YouthMappers. We were shown how to create a questionnaire with the Kobo toolbox and how to collect and upload data with it. We were also briefed on what would happen throughout the day during the mapping exercise."
A field mapping exercise was carried out across the ten (10) zones that comprise Kisenyi II with approvals from the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Uganda Slum Dwellers' Federation, and area Local Councils. These included Mengo Hill, Lubiri Triangle, Church Area, Kakajjo, School View, Kiganda, Mbiro, Kasaato, Market View, and Kibwa.
The 40 students were paired into groups of eight (8) in each of the ten zones. Each group received two local leaders to act as their guides and security during the exercise. For the project, there were a total of two (2) mapping supervisors. All data collectors and supervisors were required to wear or have access to branded visibility material (Swagg T-Shirts) with the YouthMappers and Geo YouthMappers logos at all times as a sign of security and practical identification within their fields of responsibility.
"My group was assigned zones of Kasaato, Kakajjo, and Kiganda. We began in the Kasaato zone. Before leaving, we were introduced to the zone's chairman, Mr. Ssande Nkoyoyo. He counseled us as students on a variety of topics, including respecting and loving our parents and listening when important issues are communicated. He also urged us to be intelligent, humble, and not to despise our jobs. He also told us that we should enjoy working together." Nampeera recounts.
The main objectives of the field mapping were to locate and collect physical water points, toilets, and water contamination points. Smartphones with the Kobo Collect App installed and a field data questionnaire hosted on them served as the primary tools for storing the points that were gathered.
By the end of the exercise, nearly 700 points of interest had been collected. The team interacted with community members to better understand the modalities of the WASH facilities in the area.
In a conversation with Mr. Kakande Godfrey, LC1 chairperson of Kakajjo Zone, he mentioned that the majority of his residents use public toilets rather than private toilets. He went on to say that these are few in comparison to the area's population and that efforts to increase their number have been futile due to the nature of the land tenure system in the area, which has made it difficult for the government to acquire land for this purpose.
"We came across several open drainages. People dumped waste in them because they were open, causing them to stink. The stench spread throughout the surrounding workplaces, making everyone extremely uncomfortable." Nampeera observed.
A concerned resident in charge of one of the community water taps in Kasaato zone bemoaned her neighbors' poor hygiene practices, which included leaving their sewage tanks open during rainy days, allowing sewage to flow down the hill and contaminate their water, posing a high risk of water-borne diseases.
Mr. Ahmed Ismael, chairman of the Uganda Somali Community, spoke about the inequalities that refugees face when it comes to access to WASH facilities. He claims that their water and toilet fees are always doubled when compared to other residents.
Residents of Mengo Hill, Lubiri Triangle, Church Area, and Kasaato appreciated the efforts of the National Water and Sewerage Corporation in providing consistent and moderately priced clean water through Public Stand Posts that require tokens of about 20,000 Ugandan Shillings. Although there were concerns that these taps would soon be phased out, they were widely distributed in the areas where we moved.
According to Nampeera, "There were no public damping points, so people had to collect their trash somewhere and hand it over to the city council trucks that passed through on a weekly basis. Some people I spoke with suggested that having the council truck come through more frequently to collect trash would improve waste management and reduce garbage accumulation. Drainages must also be covered so that people are not tempted to dump garbage in them."
Nevertheless, during the fieldwork process, some community members withheld information, citing security issues, while others did not provide an explanation. This restricted the amount of data we could gather.
Later, the team went through a validation and cleaning process with the data they had collected. All required attributes of the data were given OSM tags, and the data was then uploaded to OpenStreetMap for use by the general public. To assist the project's beneficiaries in evaluating and improving the WASH facilities in the project area, static maps that visualize the data collected were created using QGIS. This data has the potential for further analysis and can benefit a variety of stakeholders, including the Prime Minister's Office, which is in charge of refugees in Uganda, the Ministry of Water and Environment, KCCA, NGOs, local leaders, and the entire community.
The Geo YouthMappers believe that their involvement in this project gave them a variety of skills and experiences that will help them in the future as they carry out humanitarian work and pursue their areas of expertise as geospatial scientists. For further discussions and interactions about this project, follow us at @Geo Youthmappers.
About the Author
Haji Wamala Fawaz
Project Coordinator, Geo YouthMappers
Former president of the Geo YouthMappers and qualified land surveyor at Ephemeris Consults, Haji Wamala Fawaz assists communities with land and geospatial solutions. Among other things, Fawaz uses this experience to document property rights, create maps, and define property lines.
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