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“Uganda’s health sector fails to meet demand”
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“Uganda’s health sector fails to meet demand”

Ronald Ochoo

Uganda’s health system is ill-equipped to meet the country’s needs, writes Ronald Ochoo, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Kampala, Uganda, who challenges leaders and the public to question health care spending priorities. 

Tragic fuel tank fires that killed more than 41 people in Kampala’s Namungona suburb draw a question whether Uganda’s health centers can handle such scenarios.

From the response by the police that came some minutes later and subsequent admission to the one and only national referral hospital in Uganda – Mulago Hospital – we know a lot is left to be desired.

This is not the first of its kind happening in Uganda. Many have been victim to such circumstances, where these hospitals don’t even have the basic equipment you would expect to get, or they are limited in number.

What hurts more is how health workers are treated when it comes to remuneration. Some have not been paid for quite a long period without any proper explanations.  As if to insult the already heartbroken citizens, the president announced the payment of five million shillings to the family of each victim 0f the Namungona fire. If I may ask – where was this money when the teachers demanded a pay increment or when the health workers wanted better pay? It is not rare to see our generous president dish out money for such opportunistic moments, so as to look the savior of the situation.

This reminds me of one incident of a serious road accident in Northern Uganda, where the  private  hospitals had to help the Lira Referral Hospital as it was overwhelmed and didn’t have the staff to manage the situation at hand. The cause of the carnage was overloading of a truck carrying more than 180 people. To you it might sound outrageous – people in trucks! But yes we use that in some areas of Uganda.

The government has always done its best to advertise jobs and make known the vacancies in the health sector. The latest was an advertisement of over 7,000 vacancies, but only 200 people tendered in their applications. What does this mean? Is it the poor pay, the long hours of work, distant work places form urbanization, or just brain drain?

One thing very true of Uganda is that we have the highest number of health workers who have opted to go for greener pastures abroad, leaving the country on its knees. This is not only affecting the health department but also other fields.

It’s even more shocking to see the government diverting over 387 billion shillings ($134M) to defence, and yet the country is not at any war or even intending to wage war. This report comes as the public expected the government to address health issues and look at militarizing itself later. 

One man who spoke on condition of anonymity stated that he felt that western tax payers were blind. A government which receives enough money for the health sector from abroad can consequently stop its own engagement and focus on buying fighter jets instead. This needs serious over hauling.  Another man stated that the western media houses seem to have thrown the facts under the carpet and failed to let the tax payers know where their donations are going. This is not only true of Uganda but also other African countries that have rushed to build their army and forgotten about the plight of the people. 

My question to you is – do you think your government is doing much about your health system? Many top government officials in Africa are flown abroad to be treated, as media reports about Zimbabwe’s President indicate. I have read, seen and heard of various government officials who fly abroad to get medical treatment, yet they have let down their own country by not building its health system.  One wonders what is wrong with their own health systems! If there is something wrong why don’t they work on that?

It’s only Madiba Nelson Mandela who has been treated within his own country. I have been informed that the late Ugandan President Milton Apollo Obote used to be treated within the country. So what happened since those glory days of 1960’s? To date not even one referral hospital has been set up since the late Obote’s building campaign in ‘60’s. The question is left to you. I am in Uganda, and that is what I have to deal with whenever I get sick.

 photo credit: AIDSVaccine via photopin cc

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 “If you aim low, you will land lower. If you aim higher you’ll land high. And if you aim at nothing, you are sure to hit it.”

About me:

I am fourth year student of Law at UgandaChristianUniversity, Uganda, and am commonly known as “Ronnie”. A trained mentor, trained youth entrepreneur and customer care management by ILO, I’ve grown up in Kampala.

I am an activist, engaged in causes ranging from youth leadership and development to investment. I come from a humble background and love to live a humble life, impacting people’s lives and developing my leadership ability while realising the potential in people.

For more details about me please check the link: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/ronald-ochoo/2b/284/23b

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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