Do It Underwater

“We could do it underwater?”

“Very funny, I’m sure, Mr President” said the Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture.  “…you will excuse me for reminding you that this is no time for jokes”

“You don’t need to remind me Ibrahim” President Mohammed Nasheed said quietly. “…and I am quite serious.”

“You are?”

“Yes. I am. I propose that we hold the next cabinet meeting underwater.”

“It would certainly capture international attention” said the Minister.

“…and that’s the whole idea!” The president had their attention. “Global warming is causing sea levels to rise.” The highest point above sea level, on the necklace of 1,200 islands that make up the Maldives, is 2.4 meters. Even a moderate rise in sea levels would submerge the entire nation. The Republic of the Maldives would cease to exist.

On 17 October 2009, the Parliament of the Maldives met underwater. The objective was to draw attention to the rising sea level as a direct result of global warming.

 

The water-related issues we face in Karamoja, Northern Uganda, are quite different. The Maldives is made vulnerable because of too much water. Karamoja is rendered vulnerable because of an acute lack of water.

Feed a Million Mouths International (FAMMI), in partnership with Dwelling Places, runs an education and community development program in the ramshackle cluster of huts called Lomaratoit, a remote settlement in Karamoja. Together, we educate and feed 300 pupils. 

A cluster of huts in Lomaratoit

The purpose of our joint venture is to deal with the street child problem at source. Approximately 85% of all children on the streets of Kampala come from the Karamoja region.

The Agreement

 

Our agreement with the pupils, at the primary school in Lomaratoit is simple.Every day that you attend school, you will be fed.

We are now almost 2 years into this venture. Already we see very positive results in the pupils. Academic performance has improved. Body weight for the children is approaching normal for their age. Resistance to illness has improved. School attendance has increased. Migration to the incertitude of living on the streets of Kampala has significantly decreased, in the group of pupils we care for. 

The main source of water for this community is up the side of a hill, about 400 metres from the school.

The pool is about two metres across. It captures water in the rainy season as well as some precipitation that percolates through the rocks in the dry season.

This pond is also the drinking hole for local cows and other wild animals. Tadpoles grow into a colony of croaking frogs, in the rock pool.

The water source for the people of Lomaratoit

Universal access to clean water and sanitation is one of 17 global goals that make up the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Water scarcity affects more than 40% of the world’s population. This is an alarming statistic that is projected to increase with the rise of global temperatures as a result of climate change.

 

Three Causes of Concern

The lack of clean water raises three causes of concern:

Health: The water source is shared with the beasts of the field and any number of rodent species. There are legions of disease-carrying germs in the water. The water must be boiled for a sustained period, before it is safe to drink. However, the COVID-19 epidemic has shown us that humans are prone to throwing caution to the wind – and suffering the consequences. Young children, especially, suffer debilitating diarrhoea from drinking contaminated water.

 

Hygiene: The Karamajong have a well-established tradition of open defecation in the fields adjacent to their huts. The washing of hands, post-defecation, is a discipline not yet common place in Karamoja. Our colleagues, Dwelling Places, work hard to implement the United Nations WASH program in Lomaratoit. This is an exercise in swimming against the tide. Cultural norms and the lack of clean water make this a Herculean task.

Hunger: Crops and livestock need water to thrive. The lack of water means that there are no crops to speak of. Children and parents live in a constant state of hunger.

The convergence of these three forces Health, Hygiene and Hunger, trap the people of Lomaratoit in a vortex of auto-perpetuating poverty.

We cannot solve every problem on our own. Neither can we solve all problems for everyone. However, because we cannot do everything does not mean we cannot do anything.

Lunch time at the Lomaratoit Primary School

FAMMI addresses the issue of hunger in Lomaratoit. Each pupil at the school receives one serving of our nourishing porridge called NRG Xtra. The porridge is prepared using water that has been boiled for long enough to make sure that it is safe to use. For most of the pupils, this is the only meal they will have for the day.

Please join us by sponsoring a meal for these young people. Our Buy Breakfast program makes it possible for you to provide a meal for someone who needs it as much as you do – but cannot afford it. Will your contribution make a difference? Of course, it will!

One person cannot change the world. But YOU can change the world for one person.

References:

  1. The Maldives has no hills, but some islands have dunes which can reach 2.4 meters (7.9 feet) above sea level. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_the_Maldives
  2. https://www.globalgoals.org/
  3. In 2015, world leaders agreed to 17 Global Goals (officially known as the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs). These goals have the power to create a better world by 2030, by ending poverty, fighting inequality and addressing the urgency of climate change.
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/22/water-saving-an-important-but-ignored-weapon-in-solving-climate-crisis-says-un
  5. In some regions, droughts are exacerbating water scarcity and thereby negatively impacting people’s health and productivity. https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/climate-change/
  6. https://ugandaradionetwork.net/story/karamoja-residents-share-water-with-animals
  7. https://uganda.savethechildren.net/news/reducing-diarrhoea-and-improving-sanitation-karamoja
  8. https://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1502048/struggle-access-clean-water-real
  9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WASH

About the Author

Mark Montgomery is a Director at FAMMI. He has been committed to humanitarian development work for most of his adult life – either as a volunteer or in a full-time capacity. He has worked in several East European countries such as Poland, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine. He is committed to developing local leadership over “importing” expat talent. He argues that this is the only way to build sustainable enterprises.

Mark started FAMMI at the end of 2012. Mark also works as a consultant and freelance worker in the IT world. His expertise is in the areas of Technical Writing, Business Analysis and Functional Analysis. He has worked for companies such as SWIFT, The National Bank of Belgium and The National Lottery in Belgium. 

Mark holds a MBA and is a Member of the Institute Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC), Member for the Chartered institute for IT (MBCS) and member of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection. He is also a Certified Expert in Microfinance (Frankfurt School of Finance and Management).

About FAMMI

Feed A Million Mouths International (FAMMI) aims to feed one million vulnerable people in Uganda within 3 years. FAMMI is incorporated as a company limited by guarantee, allowing it to operate as a Social Enterprise. FAMMI blends, packages and commercialises fortified foods for individuals and At Risk Communities in Uganda.

FAMMI is motivated by the fact that the quality of nutrition, in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, largely determines what quality of future that child will have. Inadequate nutrition during this crucial period, both for the pregnant mother and her baby, can have a permanent effect on the child’s cognitive and physical development.

About Dwelling Places

Dwelling Places (DP) began in 2002 and is a Christian NGO dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of street children, abandoned babies and high-risk slum families in Uganda. DP follows a holistic program to restore and rebuild the children and families in its care. The ‘Restore’ programme is dedicated to rescuing vulnerable children and rehabilitating them through healthcare, education and reconciliation with their families. The ‘Rebuild’ programme is dedicated to helping families welcome their children back into the home and to enable alumni to develop and enjoy a sustainable way of life after leaving Dwelling Places.

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