Saturday, July 17, 2010


This week started off on a somber note. The bomb attacks on World Cup fans in Kabalagala and at Kyadondo Rugby grounds have had us holding our breaths through out the week as the extent of the tragedy became fully known.

At the time of writing the official death toll was 74 with scores more wounded and hospitalised.

Somali insurgents al-Shabaab, have claimed responsibility for the attack. They want our troops in Somalia, there to guard the capital Mogadishu out. Their links to Al Qaeda are well documented.

In the immediate aftermath of the explosion our health system came under enormous strain. Mulago and Kampala’s other health facilities were overwhelmed with casualties. Given the already wanting state of health system they acquitted themselves well. But was it well enough?

Ghana and Brazil went out of the World Cup at the same stage, but the reception of both teams at home were as different as night and day. Whereas the Black Stars were feted and adopted by all of Africa, Brazil’s multi-million dollar stars were brutally criticized and Dunga’s days as coach are numbered.

The difference between the two is one of expectation. Ghana and Africa, were content with a quarterfinal finish but for five time winner Brazil, its population wanted nothing less than a return of the cup to their shores.

In soccer as in life, your expectations will determine whether you are satisfied with world class results or are content to with much less.

We know that already patients at Mulago – our national referral hospital, are enduring less than ideal conditions, one shudders to imagine what happened on Sunday night when more than 50 patients in many in critical condition descended on our health system.

This is not the first time –we survived by a whisker the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, nor will it be the last time that Uganda will be a terrorist target.

Beyond that lets put things in perspective.

The 2001 bombings of New York’s World Trade Center has produced the heights death toll of any terrorist attack in history. Almost 3,000 people died during that attack. Nearer to home 237 people died in the attacks on Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Sunday’s attacks have already been logged and we come a distant 73rd in the list of deaths by a terror attack. Invariably the magnitude of the death toll has direct correlation on the victims hospitalized.

If the health system of the capital has been overwhelmed by less than 200 casualties, God forbid when the casualties double?

An ongoing audit of the health services provision is ongoing and throwing up some disturbing instances of inexplicable negligence of duty and outright corruption in the health system. But it is also showing that government needs to better address issues of staff welfare, procurement procedures and overall capacity inadequacies.

The upgrading of our health system now more than ever, should become an issue of national security. To continue living at the mercy of god as we have been doing for so long, is not only foolhardy but downright suicidal.

Our centrality in a region of historical instability means that we will inevitably get our share of tragedy, that is a fact and we should not bury our heads in the sand about it. Lets organize not agonise.

Currently Uganda’s health sector budget amounts to an average of $7 per person compared to the $28 per person we require to provide very basic health care for all. That budget needs to be reexamined as a matter of urgency.

If we thought we can continue to get by with our less than adequate health service system, let Sunday be our wake up call.

Published in 17 July New Vision

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