We recently spoke with the President and Founder of International Lifeline Fund, Dan Wolf, about what led him to Uganda and about the water situation there. We want to share his story:
Water to Thrive: What led you to Northern Uganda?
Dan Wolf: Northern Uganda fit the profile for the kind of region on which I wanted Lifeline to focus its efforts: fragile, war-afflicted and neglected regions of Sub Saharan Africa, where the need for assistance from the international community was especially compelling.
W2T: How did you come to realize the depth of the water need?
DW: During my visits to remote villages and IDP camps in Northern Uganda, I witnessed first-hand, the crisis surrounding access to clean water. People were collecting and drinking water from stagnant and contaminated pools – water that I could not in a million years imagine drinking myself. It was heart-breaking to watch mothers and their children drink from those filthy pools.
W2T: Much global attention has been given to the LRA and the terror they inflicted in Uganda. How did that conflict affect the water situation that still exists there?
DW: As a result of the LRA 20-year terror campaign and related violence, much of the population of Northern Uganda fled their homes for squalid IDP camps. During the period they lived in IDP camps, the international community attempted to provide for their most rudimentary needs, including the need for clean water. When the population started returning home, the international community did little or nothing to assist them with their repatriation to villages that lacked the most basic services/infrastructure. Of all the challenging issues they faced, the most basic and vital was the lack of access to clean water. So ironically, much of the population faced greater problems with access to clean water when they returned home than they did during the period they lived in IDP camps. This remains a very dire need in villages throughout Northern Uganda, where life has just begun returning to normal over the past couple of years.
W2T: How did you decide to start water work with International Lifeline Fund?
DW: I learned that the cost to drill a borehole and provide a fresh water source for years to come for these communities was literally just a few dollars a person. So, I resolved to acquire a drilling rig and start producing clean water points, which Lifeline did in June 2006. By the time, I visited three months later, we had completed 10 boreholes that were meeting the clean water needs of about 7,000 villagers, profoundly improving their health and changing their lives.
W2T: Our first pilot program of clean water wells with ILF is going to be in an area of Northern Uganda called Apac. What can you tell us about this particular district?
DW: The situation in Apac is somewhat different in that it was never directly attacked by the LRA. Apac did, however, become a haven for many who fled to IDP camps located in that district. As the attention of the international community was focused on IDPs, very little effort was made to address the clean water needs of the permanent population of Apac. Those needs are especially great, as clean water is a very scarce resource in that district due to high salt content in the ground water.
As Dan mentioned, the area of Apac in Northern Uganda has a very great water need and we are excited to start our work in Uganda in this district. We are in the process of funding our first ten projects in Apac right now and plan to start another fifteen boreholes in the fall of 2013. To learn more about our new partnership in Uganda, click HERE