Amb Moto’s closing remarks at “The Role of Nurses and Midwives in the UK and Africa” webinar 

Ambassador Julius Peter Moto. Courtesy/File photo.

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,

Our host SSCG Consulting,

Honourable speakers at this event,

Invited e-guests, ladies, and gentlemen,

Webinar – 3, June 2020: It is a pity that we are unable to meet face to face during this moment, occasioned by Coronavirus/Covid-19. I hope we shall be able to meet again in the nearby future.

May we observe a moment of silence to all front-line staff in the health sector in Africa, UK and around the world who have lost their lives in fighting Covid-19. We also extend our condolences to everyone who lost dear ones to Covid-19 and may we pray that those that have been infected get well soon.

Covid-19 is a new threat to humanity. By this time last year 2019, we had no idea on what shall befall us. Our plans for the year went on schedules. Then came Covid-19 in December/January. 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.

Government of Uganda recognises 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 left the country over the years from 1971 to 1986 and beyond.

Uganda continued to train doctors, nurses, and other cadres to man the sector. Some interesting statistics on nurses in Uganda: Uganda currently has 73000 nurses now (2020), compared to 44,000 in 2010 and a mere 3000 in 1986. This is 2333% increase in number of nurses hence the commitment Government of Uganda has attached to the importance of nurses. No nurses No health. No health No wealth.

Uganda also was the first country in Africa to embrace Nursing Now Campaign that advocates for the voice of nursing community to enable them to enjoy their career. I attended the global launch of Nursing Now in London and also attended the Nursing Now Uganda Chapter. 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. We urge all the African Countries to embrace Nursing Now Campaigns for the benefit of all.

Uganda has continued to train personnel, rehabilitate, and equip hospitals & health centres to serve the nation. 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. So far, there have been no Covid-19 deaths, out of 507 cases and 82 recoveries reported.

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.

Covid-19 has affected Uganda fiscal needs and in the short to medium term, government tax revenues targets shall not be realised. 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.

President Museveni has made it clear to Ugandans to innovate and industrialise during this crisis to generate incomes, jobs and domestic tax revenues. It is the only sustainable way in the long run for services in health until a vaccine is engineered. International routes for cargo were not closed.

Cargo to and from Uganda flowed with minimum interruptions at border posts as all drivers are tested for Covid-19. While launching a factory for manufacturing face masks in Mukono two weeks ago, he 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 crisis, like the covid-19 pandemic.

In conclusion, 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. 

Amb. Moto Julius Peter is Uganda’s High Commissioner to UK & Ireland.

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