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July 3, 2024

by Vandana Shah

Uganda’s $15.4 million to control epidemics is a milestone but work has only just begun

Uganda’s $15.4 million to control epidemics is a milestone but work has only just begun

This op-ed first appeared on New Vision in Uganda on July 1, 2024. 

By Vandana Shah

The Government of Uganda has approved the sum of 57.8 billion Uganda shillings (an equivalent of about US$ 15.4 million) in epidemic preparedness financing for the 2024-25 financial year. This decision, which follows consistent collaborative advocacy by the Uganda National Health Consumers' Organization (UNHCO) and the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) marks a historic milestone in the country’s commitment to prevent and mitigate the risk of epidemics. 

Uganda is situated at the Congo-basin tropical belt. This exposes the country to numerous pathogens of pandemic potential. In the past 5 years, Uganda has experienced outbreaks of Covid-19, Ebola, Marburg, Anthrax, Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic fever, red-eye conjunctivitis and is currently undergoing a quarantine for Foot and Mouth disease. The country’s Public Health Emergency Operations Center (PHEOC) under the Ministry of Health monitors and responds to 23 real-time outbreaks.  These risks have brought urgency to the need for domestic investment - rather than an over-reliance on external donor funds - for epidemic preparedness and response.

Every year, we are reminded of heroes like Dr. Martin Lukwiya, the fearless medical commander who battled to save the lives of Ebola patients and millions of potential victims around the country, only to contract the deadly disease that took his life in December 2000.

President Yoweri Museveni showed courageous leadership in the face of an immutable enemy – COVID-19 – during that phase when the country had to make tough choices between health and economic survival. His decision to order months’ long lockdown saved hundreds of thousands of lives. The President has also shown dedicated leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS and Ebola. For these reasons and many, Uganda is a regional and continental leader in health security. 

As we applaud this milestone, we are mindful of the arduous task of efficiently executing programs with the budget to keep Uganda safe from debilitating epidemics as a model that can serve neighboring countries. During this fiscal year, therefore, we call upon the government to put in place a robust work-plan and accountability framework that ensures the funds are efficiently and effectively utilized. This includes closing the gaps identified by the World Health Organization during the recent evaluation of Uganda’s capacity to prevent, detect and respond to public health emergencies. Thus, the National Action Plan on Health Security II (2024-29), which is developed in response to the evaluation, should inform the work plan for implementation and absorption of the approved funds in a transparent and accountable manner. It is crucial to ensure that accountability issues do not overshadow this successful initiative, as doing so could pose significant risks to the socio-economic fabric and the health of the nation. 

The Global Health Advocacy Incubator and Partners on the Health Security Coalition once again commend the government for this investment. 

We look forward to working under the leadership of the Ministry of Health to support the implementation of the National Action Plan to prevent, detect and respond to any epidemic threat.