GOVERNMENT OF UGANDA HAS PRIOLITIES RIGHT, ACQUIRING VACCINES, AMBULANCES, AND VEHICLES CONCURRENTLY
By Emmanuel Ainebyoona
In the past few months, social media has been awash with demands for accountability for the funds donated by the general public to government in support of the COVID-19 response.
Indeed, the government appreciates the generosity of all Ugandans from all walks of life who contributed both in-kind and in cash to raise over the UGX 29billion. Allow me refresh your memory and reiterate that all the funds collected were deposited to the National COVID-19 Response Fund. This Fund was established by His Excellency, the President and chaired by Mr. Emmanuel Katongole.
The 17-member team of eminent Ugandans ensured transparency, accountability and continuously kept the public abreast with the donations of all kind. For example, through the various live broadcasts, His Excellency, President Museveni would read each of the companies/individuals and their contribution towards this Fund.
If we recall very well, it was on Thursday, May 28th , 2020 when the 17 members of the National COVID-19 Fund met H.E the President and agreed that these funds be used to procure vehicles to support the COVID-19 Response at the time. This meeting was well covered by the media, however, some sections of the media might have deliberately left out this detail.
In his own words, the President said “I like the vehicles because the people can see them and these same vehicles will stay for years. The border camps are even better they are here to stay.”
Subsequently, a decision was made to utilize UGX 23.9 billion of the total funds collected to procure 282 vehicles where each district is expected to get two brand new Toyota double cabin pickups.
Of the UGX 29 billion, UGX 3.3 Billion was earmarked to support construction of a blood bank at Soroti Regional Referral Hospital and UGX 2.4 billion for the construction of Port Health facilities at Cyanika and Vurra. The procurement processes are currently ongoing.
On Friday, this week, when news of the arrival of 121 out of the 282 double cabins pick ups were made available on social media, part of the groups who were demanding for accountability of the UGX 29 billion now changed their minds and now started questioning why government had prioritized the vehicles not vaccines or ambulances.
Many districts will have their transport and other logisitical challenges solved when these vehicles finally arrive after undergoing the registration process. Some of the newly created districts have been on a waiting list for vehicles to support activities like contact tracing and Vaccination under the COVID-19 response.
As a matter of fact, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Government through the COVID-19 response decided to procure 38 ambulances to supplement the current fleet to support Emergency Medical Services. At the end of last year, the ambulances which include; three water boat ambulances had arrived and dispatched to support the evacuation of patients with COVID-19 related complications. To-date, over 116 ambulances have been acquired including these donated by the general public and other well-wishers. Additional 11 boat ambulances are expected in the country procured with support from GAVI. The Ministry of Health is committed to enhancing the response to Emergency Medical Services by building a national medical emergency service with regional call and dispatch system.
Following the development of various Vaccines globally, the government immediately embarked on a process of acquiring vaccines for the Ugandan population. Several orders have been initiated, however, this has been largely affected by the global demand and scramble for vaccines, the COVID-19 situation notwithstanding. However, about a number of vaccines will soon arrive in the country to enable continuation of vaccination that is targeting over 22 million people.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also enabled the Government to build additional bed capacity to cater for the growing number of COVID-19 patients. It is against this background that Ministry of Health is executing a directive of putting in place a total of 42,000 beds across the country. Over 1,300 beds have been made available and a procurement of 4,600 standard beds is underway from local manufacturers through the Buy Uganda, Build Uganda strategy. Over 143 ICU units have been installed across the Regional Referral Hospitals and procurement of additional 54 ICU beds is underway.
It is important to note that the entire world is faced with a pandemic, and this has stretched even the best of best health systems worldwide. The Government of Uganda continues to prioritize the health of Ugandans and improve service delivery. The Ministry of Health has developed and implementing a COVID-19 resurgence plan where the procurement of vaccines, ambulances, beds and other health needs like Personal protective equipment (PPE), oxygen plants and test kits are ongoing .
*The author is the Senior Public Relations Officer at Ministry of Health*