Last week, on 22nd March, MTN joined the rest of the world in celebration of World Water day under the theme: “Groundwater, making the invisible visible”, a theme aimed at spotlighting the importance of underground water in curbing water scarcity around the world.

Increasingly, different countries around the world are facing water scarcity as a result of climate change, which poses a threat to the future of human and animal life in those countries.

Closer to home, there has been great concern about water shortages resulting from climate change in the East African region. In a 2022 report, Oxfam International warned that as many as 28 million people across East Africa could face severe hunger if lack of rain persists through March.

News reports in Uganda indicate that some areas of the country such as Nakasongola and Gulu are challenged by water scarcity due to prolonged drought in those regions. In some cases, people have resorted to using dirty water from the lake for cooking which is a recipe for water-borne diseases.

On the other hand, research documented by WaterAid and the British Geological Survey in 2022 reveals that there is enough groundwater in Africa for most countries to survive at least five years of drought – and some, more than 50 years.

However, investment into tapping these groundwater sources to provide clean and safe water to communities remains limited.  Ground water in Africa is commonly sourced from beneath the land surface for instance through boreholes, springs and wells.

In a statement released recently, Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive of WaterAid in the UK, said: “There are vast reserves of water right under people’s feet, many of which are replenished every year by rainfall and other surface water, but they can’t access it because services are chronically underfunded. Tapping into groundwater would ensure millions of people have access to safe, clean water no matter what the climate crisis throws at them.”  

To bridge this gap, there is need for collaboration between both non-profit and profit organisations geared towards increasing access to clean water in the country.

Companies such as MTN are making progress in this initiative. The telecom company over the years has dedicated proceeds from MTN Kampala Marathon towards construction of boreholes in water-scarce areas of Northern Uganda including Amuria and Nakapiripirit.

The boreholes have extended access to clean water to more than 4000 people including refugees in the country.

During the thick of the pandemic in 2020, MTN Uganda partnered with National Water and Sewerage Corporation to provide 23 bulk water points to water stressed areas of Kampala to mitigate the spread of the virus due to of lack of water.

According to Wim Vanhelleputte, MTN Uganda Chief Executive Officer, the volatile climate conditions today underscore the significance of groundwater in the survival of the human race.

“We cannot afford to ignore the significance of groundwater today because it poses a solution to some of the water scarcity challenges around the world. And as investment into exploration of this water source gains momentum, there is need for collective responsibility in guaranteeing water conservation,” he said.

Explaining MTN’s effort in extending access to clean and safe water across the country, Vanhelleputte also added: “The goal behind MTN’s investment in this initiative is fuelled by our belief that MTN can only flourish when the communities and ecosystems in which it operates are healthy. In addition, as part of our Ambition 2025 strategy, MTN Group commits to further drive efforts to create shared value, with Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) at the core.