An Interview with Moses Ssekabira
I have been blessed to have known Moses Ssekabira and his family since 2004. Despite the tragedies they have endured, the Lord has been so near to them and almost anyone who meets them can sense it.
Recently I asked Moses to share how water accessibility impacted his family when he was growing up in Uganda, and how the installation of a clean water tap a few years ago has changed their quality of life. Below he shares part of his story with us.
Share with me a little about your family?
I was born into a family of eight siblings—four brothers and four sisters, I was in the middle. Not all nine of us lived in the same house at the same time. At any given time we had five to six kids, plus my parents, living in the home. Mr. and Mrs. George and Margaret Kigozi are my parents. My dad is a peasant farmer who grows crops, practices animal husbandry, and a little of poultry. All that he does is for home consumption, and what is left over he sells. My mom also practices farming and sells fruits. My parents were hardworking and loved our family even though we didn’t have much.
Can you tell me about your experience gathering water as a child?
In Uganda, it is primarily children at home who are responsible for collecting water, specifically boys. Sometimes there are no boys at home, so the mothers or daughters collect water. This would happen in my family too. Prior to getting tap water, our water source was a hand-dug well at the bottom of a hill in a swamp about two miles away from my home. I would go down the slope with two empty 20-liter jerry cans to collect the water, and then go back uphill with full jerry cans that would weigh about 44 pounds each. It would take between 1-1.5 hours for one trip, depending on my strength for the day. So every trip I was carrying 90 pounds of water! If a bike was available, we would use it to make the journey a bit easier. With the bike we could carry 3-5 jerry cans (60-100 liters).
Throughout the course of a day, our family would collect a total of 100 liters (26 gallons). 100 liters a day is pretty average for a family of eight in Uganda. With that amount we could wash clothes and dishes, prepare food, do basic cleaning, bathe ourselves, and of course, have water for drinking. Each person in my family would usually use 5 liters (1.3 gallons) of water for bathing in a day. Comparatively, the average US family uses more than 1,135 liters (300 gallons) per day at home (EPA, How We Use Water), 12 times the amount of water a Ugandan family of 8 would use. For every need that required water, we tried to use only the bare minimum, so that we could conserve it as much as possible. It cannot be overstated how precious every drop was to us.
In Uganda we have wet and dry seasons. During wet seasons, water is available at the well. But during the dry seasons, the well that is closest to the house would dry out. This forced us to look for wells that are further away from the house, like three miles or more. In my community, there was a borehole with a hand pump that served my village and neighboring community. It provided clean and safe water. Very many families would come to get water and each family would collect for their whole family at once. Those who came would spend 2-3 hours waiting in line to collect water from there. But because of the time waiting, we would not use the borehole even though it had clean water.
How did these water sources affect your family’s health?
Wells are usually in an open area, meaning they are not covered, and are open to rain runoff that contaminates the water source. The water source can look clear, when it is already contaminated, which makes it hard for people to know if it is good water or not. No families have water testing materials. My family often suffered from typhoid, specifically my dad. He would get sick nearly every month. Other family members suffered from diarrhea. The major cause of both of these is contaminated drinking water. If water was unboiled, bacteria would affect the rest of our lives. We would wash our hands before eating food with clear water thinking that it was clean. We would always wash dishes with hot water or boiled water, trying to prevent typhoid, but still it would eventually attack our family.
You stated that getting access to tap water has dramatically changed your Family’s life. Can you tell us more about that?
In 2015, my family was blessed with tap water when a water pipeline was put in near our home. This new water source at my house brought a very powerful transition out of water survival. Our family’s health changed for the better. Since getting tap water, typhoid and diarrhea have been prevented in my family. My father has not had typhoid once since getting the water tap. It has saved my family financially because they are not spending money treating waterborne illnesses.
My family also plants vegetables to eat and to sell. Growing vegetables takes a lot of water, but the tap now provides all the water needed to grow vegetables on the land surrounding their house. My mother, who sells vegetables for income, is no longer dependent on rain to water her crops. She is selling more vegetables, increasing our family’s income.
The children in the house are not burdened with the hard labor of getting water as I was, and they can now drink clean water all of the time. Instead of traveling to a well or borehole, my family can now use the tap on their land to fill cans for bathing, cooking, and washing dishes and clothes. Now, the lives of my whole family have been improved by having access to clean water, and I thank God for it!
Testimonies like Moses’ shows what clean accessible water can do to help change the quality of life for a family. Because of stories like his, we at NuWaterWorks are working towards bringing this type of change to those who are still in need. Where water is no longer a burden, but becomes a blessing.