Betty Keji - The hygiene champion

As narrated to Rashid Mawejje

My name is Betty Keji and I am married to John Juma with 2 children, a boy and girl. I sell food items at a local market in Yei. Before the conflict broke out, I used to work as a cook at a school in South Sudan and this opportunity enabled me to save some money. It is this money that I used to start my business.

Before the May and July 2016 South Sudan conflict, life was calm and fulfilling, we had dreams. Then war broke we were forced use to leave our country and come to Uganda in September 2016. My group was lucky in that we did not encounter disturbances on our way to Uganda. The major challenges were lack of transport, food, water and medicine.

Upon arrival at Bidibidi settlement, we were registered and taken to Zone 2 in Swinga where I was given a 30 by 30 square meter plot. During this time, life was very difficult even though I was guaranteed of security. There were water shortages such that people resorted to fetching water from the nearby stream. We also did not have access to dignified sanitary facilities forcing people to defecate in the open spaces. Compounding the problem was the lack of soap, jerry cans and limited knowledge on hygiene practices. In my own family we suffered diarrhea, malaria and fighting at water points. I hated that we ran away from conflict to come here and fight each other over water.

When Oxfam came to Zone 2 in September 2016, life changed for the better. A community meeting was organized to sensitize us about health. Oxfam brought us water in a truck, drilled a borehole and started building communal latrines. Hygiene promoters were also teaching us about the importance of having a latrine. I was registered in a group of 5 households, I benefited from a set of digging tools given to our group. Assessment of people with completed latrine pits was done by the hygiene promoters and I was among those that received nails, 4 poles, 6 treated logs, 1 plastic slab, 1 tippy taps and 3 bars of soap upon completion of my latrine and I also received a bucket for keeping drinking water and children pooties.

Continued sensitization on good health, hygiene and sanitation have greatly improved my life. I have my own latrine, bathe and do my laundry regularly because I have access to water nearby. I am now a model home from whom other people come to learn; there has been an evident reduction in watery diarrheal and malaria cases in my household.

Even though our lives are much better, we still are struggling with lack of clothes and beddings and sanitary pads for women, I have not received mine since February 2017.

I am appealing to our supporters to empower us with more water sources, routine distribution of female sanitary pads and soap and empower us with skills in bread making, tailoring and cash grants do business.