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By Emmanuel  Ainebyoona
Dear reader,
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*


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