Monday, December 15, 2014


Uganda has more than thirty health workers helping out in West Africa against the Ebola outbreak in that region.

At the end of November 12 health workers arrived in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, while another 20 were already dispatched in August.

It’s not by mistake that the World health Organisation (WHO) is calling on our capacity in this battle.

Since 2000 we have suffered three Ebola outbreaks. In all there were 598 who contacted the deadly virus, 278 of who died. But the interesting thing about the attacks is that with every subsequent one the country’s health system was quicker to identify the problem, restrict infection and minimise deaths. Eighty percent of all the deaths due to Ebola were registered in the first attack, when we were caught flat footed and still trying to understand and respond to the disease.

Of the countries in the region that have experience with haemorrhagic fever South Sudan and 
Democratic Republic of Congo, being the others, we probably have the more organised system. 

Which is not saying very much, but it is something.

Of course the experience in Liberia is not going to be the same for our selfless health workers. The support systems -- government commitment, media involvement and popular vigilance that our own anti-ebola effort enjoyed may be lacking.

Maybe the one good thing that came out of Uganda’s three decade experience with HIV/AIDS, is that the public are easily mobilised to fend off threats like these.

"In hindsight one of the challenges that led to the spread of the disease in West Africa, which at the peak manifests as bleeding from all orifices of the body, was the inability by local populations, media and NGOs to raise the alarm when the first victims showed up in December last year...

Officially it is reported that 5,000 people have died since February but one has to wonder how many died in the three months prior to that.

This should be an eye opener to us. That we can deal with our own challenges quite adequately using our own people and resources.

But Uganda should go further. Given our centrality on the continent we should be building capacity not only to cure our deadliest diseases but also be on the cutting edge of research into these diseases. And beyond that we should be leaders in formulating and dispensing tailor made treatments for these ailments.

It makes sense.

Billions of dollars are poured into research related to cancer, cardiovascular and heart diseases and aging in the west, while the amounts committed to malaria, TB, diarrhoeal and water borne diseases, which are predominantly third world problems, is only a fraction of the former.

Let us recognise that no one will sort out these problems or at least treat them with as much urgency as ourselves who suffer the brunt of their effects.

It is not unheard of for a lesser developed country to be leading the way in one field of endeavour or another.

Brazil, a major coffee exporting nation, is on the cutting edge of every facet of coffee production, processing and marketing, with whole universities dedicated to the aromatic bean.

We don’t lack for manpower or even resources, seeing how many billions are pilfered in dodgy contracts and questionable payments every year. What we are lacking is the leadership with sufficient sense of urgency to drive this agenda.

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