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Molly Nabwami is a Restless Development Volunteer alumni in Uganda

The Katanga Summit took place at the end of January to assess the accessibility of critical basic public services and its impact on the future of young people living in Katanga, a slum in Kampala, Uganda. It was organized by Restless Development and Equality Uganda Now as part of the Fight Inequality Alliance, a loose global coalition of like-minded organizations united to fight the scourge of inequality at regional, national, and local levels.

For the first time, Civil society Organisations (CSOs), Non- Government Organisations (NGOs) and individuals involved in the fight against the rising inequalities in Uganda join the rest of the world through Fight Inequality Alliance Uganda Chapter (FIAUC), to commemorate the Fight Inequality week of Action.

From January 18th to 25th 2019, different members of Fight Inequality Alliance Uganda Chapter implemented activities to effectively demonstrate the magnitude of the harm inequality has inflicted on citizens. The activities aimed to demand those in power to start prioritizing community-driven solutions. We believe that different organisations and individuals are engaged in fighting inequality in different ways including raising the plight of women, youths, injustice(s), and good governance, among others.

At the Katanga summit, young people spoke about the various injustices they face when accessing basic public services.

The 25th of January was a wonderful day for me to learn, unlearn and relearn issues that deeply affect the socioeconomic wellbeing of young people in the Katanga zone (one of the slums in Kampala). For the past twenty-three years, I have known Katanga as a slum but I had never visited it.

I spent part of my childhoodin the Mulago zone and I studied at Makerere University for three years, so I was surprised that the Katanga slum is in between the two places. It got me thinking that there are still people who live in Kampala but never seen the other side of the Katanga slum.

The Katanga slum is deeply populated characterized by poverty, inadequate access to safe water, inadequate access to sanitation and other infrastructure, poor structural quality of housing and insecure residential status.

The insecure residences of a family of five.

In the Katanga summit, the residents shared how inadequate access to essential services like education, health and water affects their socioeconomic wellbeing.

Education

For many of the young people living in Katanga, the head of the household is illiterate and has had a limited education. Many parents have had an informal education or only some primary schooling. This totally affects the education of the young generation. The residents said that in Katanga, children whose parents can’t afford a private school go to a church founded school in Kasawe. Other residents, whose children who go to government-aided schools, complained that ‘free’ education is not actually ‘free’ at all.

Government schools like Buganda road ask a lot of money from us. We are asked to pay school fees, week work (20,000 shillings a month), coaching fee (10,000 shilling a day) for the lower primary that stays at school. As parents, with low incomes, we end up paying like around 200,000-300,000 shillings a term. This increases the dropout rates of children in the slums, street children and child labour.”

Some of the residents participating in the dialogue of the summit

The residents also complained that government schools don’t perform well like private schools, which they cannot afford because of the high fees. Therefore, many slum dwellers lack access to education, leaving them with few marketable skills and an inability to participate in modern production process and obtain access to credit.   

Health

The costs of health services are also high in Katanga. Initially, residents in Katanga use to access health services from Mulago hospital. Although there were often delays and inadequate medication and drugs, they used to have quick and easy access to the health facilities. During the summit, residents complained that the changes in the administration of Mulago hospital has caused it to become less accessable.

“Incase of any emergency, patients are rushed to Mulago. Mulago then refers them to either Kilundu hospital or Kawempe. Sometimes it’s hard for us in circumstances when we don’t have money for transport. So in cases where we are not able to get money to buy treatment, we resort to traditional medicine.”

A drainage site in Katanga slum

Few people have access to piped water. In cases where they do have access, people often can’t afford it as a 20 litre Jerri cane costs 200 shillings. The Public Health Act of 1964 stresses that every home should have a toilet or latrine of its own, however, in Katanga, the situation is different.

A few homes have latrines which are dilapidated, filthy, shared and inadequate. Some residents have put up public toilets and if one needs to use them, they have to pay a fee of 200 Ugandan shillings. Many families cannot afford to pay for a public toilet and have to resort to using the drainage channels. This increases the risk of diseases like Cholera, Malaria and Ebola.

A public toilet

Residents in Katanga proposed the following strategies to improve on the access of basic social services:

  • Promote public awareness about sanitation and hygiene.
  • Upgrade the skills of health staff
  • Strengthen the capacity of the referral hospitals through the use of improved technology and management techniques
  • Expand decentralization and introduce deconcentrating of the system of administration in order to increase accessibility of essential services to the people.
  • Government to provide piped water to the people

Some of the young people who are fighting injustices and committed to ending inequalities.

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