The Country is in the throes of a sever blood shortage.
According to health officials we need 300,000 units of safe blood annually, which would be managed by collecting at least 350,000. As it is we are collecting only 250,000 units.
To the lay man the first reaction would be to recommend that we have a blood collection drive, that people are not donating enough blood. As it turns out Ugandans are more than willing, but apparently we do not have enough testing kits to process the blood.
The Uganda Blood Transfusion Service (UBTS) budget is sh18b but only received sh7b, just a third of their requirement and as day follows night we have a full scale crisis.
As if that is not enough the categories most often in need of blood are pregnant mothers and children.
To state the obvious, you don’t need blood until you need it and by that time the situation is often life threatening.
The budget reading is next week. And the health ministry is expected to remain one of the highest votes. But for all the hundreds of billions of shillings allocated to the sector annually it still remains insufficient, and this is before you factor in the thieves and robbers of public funds.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the health expenditure per person in Uganda is about $124 a year way below the international average of the $1200 in 2011.
Our budget has come under strain in recent months.
Last year donors pulled the plug on up to $300m in budget support and one can expect that lack of funds to buy the testing kits is a direct consequence of this action.
If ever there was a direct connection between official corruption and the lives of ordinary Ugandans this is it. That a handful of individuals help themselves to public funds and as a result jeopardise the thousands of lives goes beyond a scandal, it’s criminal.
That being said the time has come, maybe long overdue when we determine that certain things we shall finance with our own resources and leave the crumbs to the donors and well-wishers.
We might not finance the whole health budget but surely we can find the odd billion shillings to ensure that our blood banks are fully stocked at least. Just as we ring fenced money for roads or for dams we should do the same for priority areas like our blood bank.
In the greater scheme of things the sh18b required by the blood transfusion services is a drop in the ocean compared to the monies that went missing in the public service and prime minister’s office, some of which we refunded to the donors.
Let us not fool ourselves.
We can build all the roads, dams and railways in the world but if our human capital is inadequate for lack of education or good health the benefits of these investments will not accrue to Ugandans.
This may seem like commonsense but clearly the budgeting process follows a logic all its own, a logic which clearly needs to be realigned with the needs of the Ugandan public.