The "No Change" Slogan and the Health Care System in Uganda

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The No Change Slogan and the Health Care System in Uganda
Uganda has been under the National Resistance Movement (NRM)  government for 30 years. There are things that continue to puzzle the local people and the educated all alike. For example, why would the NRM Government refuse to allocate at least 15% of its National budget to the health care of its people?

When I did my Internship at Kabale Regional Hospital in the Early 2000s, Interns had a difficult time. Our Salaries from the Ministry of health were delayed, usually for 2-3 months. We were never allowed to talk about it, and we were on many occasions threatened with dismissal from the Hospital and/or be reported to the National Council of Interns.


The Hospital houses had been sold off under the wave of privatization that consumed Uganda’s public assets like wild fire. We always walked to our residence, quite a distance from the Hospital, late in the night. Whereas the Hospital had a minivan for staff, it was always reserved for ‘special duties’. We would be called from our residence in the night, be picked up and then abandoned at the Hospital, to walk home in the dark, during a heavy down pour, or we would choose to sit on the benches for the rest of the night.

It was in the same Hospital that I saw firsthand the suffering of the rural people. Many times our hands were tied as we watched women and children die, having no supplies to save their lives.


More than 12 years later, the Interns, who are part of the health care team, go without their salaries for months. They are not allowed to complain, and they have leaders who have also learned quite well to obey the orders from above.


Uganda’s draft Budget for the financial year 2016/2017 still shows that the Health sector is going to receive only 8.9% or so. This is still way below the 15% threshold for all the developing countries that was agreed in the Abuja Declaration.


Is the NRM committed to improving the health of Ugandans, especially the rural Ugandans? Or is it more concerned with increasing the number of MPs in the NRM party, buy them new cars, and allocate themselves more and more breakfast and lunch allowances while the local person suffers every day. Who will speak to this neglect of the health of the majority Rural Ugandans?

Now that the rest of the interns in different hospitals have joined the strike, who is suffering? Our dear MPs and other privileged leaders will have their health insurance and will be flown abroad in case there is an emergency for them. They do not use the health facilities in the country, something I believe to be the very first pitfall of the health care system. Our leaders have no motivation to improve the system, because they do not use it. If they used it themselves and their families, they would work to see that the health care professionals are well taken care of, the hospitals are well stocked and, perhaps, the budget for swearing in the president and cabinet ministers would be trimmed down to invest the funds into what matters most- the health of the Ugandan people.
But this is not the case. The pre-occupation is about displaying the power of the reigning government, displaying the military might at Kololo, and  the health care can wait. However, we know that life threatening conditions do not wait to have their budget appropriated next financial year.
Until the citizens begin to demand basic health services, the government may keep putting this important aspect of Ugandans at the current position in the pile of priorities which is not appropriate to say the least.

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