14 Jun 2011

Health Experts Unhappy With Government Priorities

Reproductive Health
This year, finance minister Maria Kiwanuka announced that sh24b has been earmarked to improve maternal and reproductive care in addition to rehabilitation of Mulago Hospital and building of a maternal and child health centre.
This will supplement $130m (sh312b) committed in last year’s budget to improve maternal and reproductive health over five years and construct health infrastructure. Besides, she said, “Government is committed to building hospitals in the five divisions of Kampala.” This will reduce congestion at Mulago National Referral Hospital, especially in the labour wards. Construction of a hospital by Chinese in Naguru, Nakawa Division is ongoing.
Last financial year, the health ministry received an additional sh7b targeted towards the purchase of essential drugs and the control of malaria. Malaria is endemic in 95% of Uganda and it is the leading cause of maternal mortality in the country. It also accounts for 70,000-110,000 child deaths annually in Uganda, some of whom get infected from their mothers. So by increasing the health budget, especially to cater for maternal health, women and children’s lives will be saved further.
In the education sector, an additional funding of sh115.9b has been allocated this financial year. This is aimed at increasing the number of children, especially girls, who enroll in and complete primary. In the 2010/2011 budget, funds to the education sector increased to sh1.13trillion from sh1 trillion in 2009. This year, another sh20.3b has been allocated for the capitation grant to scale up USE.
Education as a Contraceptive
Uneducated girls face greater risks of HIV, sexual exploitation and child trafficking, according to Ms. Martha Songa of Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU). Uneducated girls are also less likely to have healthy children and to send their children to school.
Criticisms: Square Peg In A Round Hole
But not all stakeholders in the health sector are happy with the government's priorities. The president of the Uganda Medical Association, Dr Margaret Mungherera, said she is disappointed that a key demand for better pay has not been addressed for the past five years despite consistent promises by President Museveni to increase health workers' pay.
"If you concentrate on drugs, ambulances, infrastructure without looking at the people who are offering the services, it's like having a well-stocked shop with no shopkeeper," said Dr Mungherera.
 Is there a crisis in Kampala?
The places with greatest need for healthcare investments are in the rural areas. It is disappointing that government is going to spend the biggest proportion of its health resources in the current budget to Kampala, where the least need is according to its own data.

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