Years of civil conflict in neighbouring countries has resulted in Uganda hosting the world's second largest refugee population, behind Turkey.
With over 1.2 million refuges from mostly South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the influx has placed enormous strain on infrastructure and services within refugee settlements and hosting districts.
Ensuring refugee settlements have access to sanitary facilities and safe water, along with increased promotion of good hygiene practices, improves lives by limiting the spread of illness and disease through the camps.
UN Volunteer Yuji Kawai arrived in Kampala to support the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) with Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) interventions.
Yuji was deployed as a UN Volunteer under the Programme for Human Resource Development for Peacebuilding (HRD), a joint partnership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, the Hiroshima Peacebuilders Center and UNV, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Commencing as a HRD-UN Volunteer WASH Project Officer (2018-2019), Yuji’s responsibilities quickly expanded into Monitoring and Evaluation where he worked hard to build community capacity to effectively manage and maintain new WASH facilities.
Yuji worked closely with the IOM team, implementing partner NGOs, UNHCR, the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment, the Office of Prime Minister and local government offices, to coordinate and implement four WASH projects in West Nile and South West region refugee settlements.
Each project consisted of building large-scale water supply systems and sanitary infrastructure such as toilets, for schools and refugee households. It also included the distribution of hygiene items and the promotion of good hygiene practices.
In the West Nile Palorinya refugee settlement, Yuji helped to educate 160 students on school level hygiene and good practices like handwashing.
"This triggered their volunteerism to advocate for change and improve hygiene awareness within their schools," Yuji said.
"Their energy and enthusiasm also benefited their communities as they were able to share their knowledge on the importance and practice of good hygiene," Yuji explained.
As a Project Officer based in Kampala, Yuji’s contributed by writing proposals, interim and final donor reports and conducting field monitoring visits to sites.
Yet only five months into his assignment, he was asked to take on monitoring and evaluation work for all WASH projects implemented by IMO in Uganda.
In this capacity, Yuji ensured all facilities constructed through WASH projects were properly handed over to local committees, consisting of both refugees and local authorities.
He provided training on proper operation and maintenance, with a view to ensuring long-term sustainability and good management of the facilities.
Of his experience, particularly the expansion into monitoring and evaluation, Yuji said the skills he has acquired are precious.
"Although I had some level of experience, I had never undertaken monitoring and evaluation work at a UN scale. This was a quite challenging since the number of activities and size of each project was large," Yuji shares.
He continues, "Ultimately the WASH interventions in the four refugee settlements improved access to safe water, clean toilets and increased good hygiene practice for approximately 250,000 refugees."
Yuji’s assignment contributed to the achievement of SDG 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
This article was prepared with the kind support of Online Volunteer Helen Maccan.