By Justin Omara
Kampala—3, June 2020: Uganda’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom & Ireland, Ambassador Julius Peter Moto has lauded government efforts in steering the country’s economy safely amidst the prevalence of novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
While giving his closing remarks at “The Fight against Covid-19: The Role of Nurses and Midwives in the UK and Africa” webinar on Wednesday 3rd June 2020, the Ambassador observed a moment of silence for all the front-line staff in the health sector in Africa, UK and around the world who have lost their lives in fighting Covid-19. He also extended his condolences to everyone who lost their dear ones to Covid-19 and wished quick recovery to all the infected people across the globe.
The meeting, hosted by SSCG Consulting, brought together Lord Nigel Crisp, Chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health, HEE on international nurses, Moses Mulimira, the coordinator of Uganda UK Health Alliance and other invited e-guests.
Ambassador Moto lamented that Covid-19 is a new threat to humanity and by this time last year 2019, people had no idea of what would befall them. “This disease caught us unaware and as we move forward, we need to put in place contingency plans to ensure that our health sector is well staffed, well equipped, and well-motivated. Africa is still faced with killer diseases like malaria, TB, HIV and AIDS. From time to time, some places get attacked by Ebola. Add Covid-19 to the equation and you come face to face with reality affecting the sector,” Uganda’s envoy to UK and Ireland remarked.
He added that the government of Uganda recognizes that Nurses constitute the core of Uganda health care system that we are rebuilding from scratch since a near total breakdown in 1986, when NRM government came to power and found no infrastructure to be proud of in health sector.
A lot of medical personnel, he reveals, left the country over the years from 1971 to 1986 and beyond, yet Uganda continued to train doctors, nurses, and other cadres to man the sector.
Statistically, Uganda currently has 73,000 nurses (2020), compared to 44,000 in 2010 and a mere 3000 in 1986. This, he says, is a 2333% increase in the number of nurses, hence the commitment government of Uganda has attached to the importance of nurses.
“No nurses, no health. No health, no wealth,” said the Ambassador.
Worth noting is the interesting fact that Uganda was the first country in Africa to embrace “Nursing Now Campaign” This campaign advocates for the voice of nursing community to enable them to enjoy their career. For the first time in history, the voices of nurses are being heard; voice on the table, so to speak. Nursing Now has spread country wide, challenges notwithstanding.
Despite the setbacks, Ambassador Moto says Uganda has continued to train personnel, rehabilitate, and equip hospitals and health centers to serve the nation, adding that the threat of Covid-19 is being mainstreamed in our health care system as we did for HIV/AIDS and we shall continue to create capacity to manage outbreaks and pandemics like Covid-19.
“Covid-19 has affected Uganda’s fiscal needs and in the short to medium term, government tax revenues targets shall not be realized. However, using locally generated funds and borrowed funds from bilateral and multi-lateral sources, we have continued to provide better working conditions (compared to 10 years ago) for nurses, providing PPEs and remunerating them well as we manage Covid-19 and other killer diseases,” Mr Moto added.
So far, there have been no Covid-19 related deaths in Uganda out of 507 cases and 82 recoveries reported.
In an effort to remind Ugandans of the indispensable need for better alternatives of economic survival, he further reiterated President Museveni’s call to Ugandans to innovate and industrialize during this crisis to generate incomes, jobs and domestic tax revenues as it is the only sustainable way in the long run for services in health until a vaccine is engineered.
Cargo to and from Uganda is still flowing with minimum interruptions at border posts as all drivers are tested for Covid-19.
While launching a factory for manufacturing face masks in Mukono recently, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni said Uganda has enough raw materials to feed industries for production of commodities rather than continue relying heavily on imports, which he said were unsettling the economy, especially during a crisis, like the Covid-19 pandemic.
The primary focus of Uganda now is a two-pronged approach, firstly, a gradual, and a phased approach to re-open the country while managing the pandemic [Covid-19] and secondly to resuscitate the economy by stimulating investments in critical sectors, while focusing on import substitution to save foreign exchange. All these are aimed at generating resources to continue providing services to Ugandans.
Ambassador Moto concluded that, in Uganda and throughout Africa, there is a continued need to further strengthen capacity building for nurses as being advocated by Nursing Now, with more mutual collaboration and experience sharing between Nurses in UK and African countries.
Through structured but mutual capacity building, Africa and UK shall have a stronger nurses’ centred health sector for the benefit of all, he concluded.