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Health Ministry Reveals Achievements In Last 5 Years, To Vaccinate 60% Of Population Against COVID

Minister Robinah Nabbanja

By Francis Otucu

The Health Ministry says it is moving towards vaccinating 60% of the country’s population in order to spur economic recovery. 

Robinah Nabbanja, the State Minister for General Duties in Health Ministry made the revelation as she highlighted the sector’s performance against the 2016-2021 NRM manifesto pledges at the OPM auditorium on Tuesday.

“We want to have vaccination of all the population at 60%. We need to return to normal,” she said, adding that the population should  continue observing health measures like hand washing, wearing of face masks and practice social distancing.

Uganda was ranked number 10 in the world in terms of suppressing the Covid-19 Pandemic (Lancet August 2020).

Nabbanja says Uganda’s success story in the COVID-19 pandemic response is rooted in a four pillars: Strong National and public health Leadership, dedicated scientists, the resilient health system,  and the population support.

Nabanja says the government procured an initial 964,000 doses of the AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine for the citizens targeting the most at-risk population cluster first.

These, she said, included health workers, security personnel, persons aged 50 years and above and persons below 50 years with comorbidities.

The Minister says Uganda’s Covid-19 success was achievable because of the early activation of National Task Force on Outbreaks for COVID19 (mid-January), with the escalation of coordination responsibilities to the Office of Prime Minister following the first few cases.

Others, she says, are early development of the National Scenario-based Response Plan (mid-February) with several revisions to reflect evolving guidance and modelling and decentralization of the response to districts and activation of DTF’s and their subcommittees with a strong focus on borders: screening at international airport since February, dynamic adaptation of the response at Points of Entry, universal testing of truck drivers and monitoring of their movements.

Early and stringent containment measures, Nabanja says, was another area that led to success. This, she says, involved mandatory institutional quarantine paid for by the government and a nation-wide lock down.

She says a unified command of response between MoH and security forces (UPDF) also played a big role in the Covid-19 containment.

Going forward, the ministry says a National Task Force comprising partners and other sectors is in place to coordinate response to all epidemic outbreaks.

According to Nabanja, all the District Health Teams in the country have been trained on Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response.

She says refresher courses are given when need arises for example during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Nabanja revealed that the country has established laboratory capacity at UVRI and National Public Health Laboratory at Butabika to diagnose and confirm outbreaks including COVID-19.

During the period under review, the ministry reports that Malaria prevalence reduced from 19% in 2014 to 9% in 2019. We thus achieved the target in the Manifesto of less than 10% prevalence by 2020 and that universal distribution of insecticide treated mosquito nets was conducted twice in 2017 and 2020.

Nabanja says that in the last distribution of 2020, a total of 27.4 million LLINs were distributed covering over 98% (11,304,589) of the households.

In addition, over 100,000 LLINs were distributed to people in flood affected districts in 2020.

TB and Leprosy Control

Uganda remains among the 30 high burden TB HIV countries in the world with an estimated incidence rate of about 80,000 TB cases but the ministry says that service delivery has been intensified and has saved over 180,000 lives from TB.

“All the required TB drugs are available for free in all designated facilities starting from HC IIIs. TB Case Detection Rate increased to 82% in 2019/20 from 78% in 2018/19. The TB Treatment Success Rate increased by 8.3% to 78% from 72% in FY 2018/19,” Nabbanja said.

She says a total of 345,396 PLHIV were enrolled out of the target of 304,391 from July to September 2019, achieving 113% of the target.

Mother to Child HIV Transmission

The ministry says that Vertical Infections from mothers to their babies also dropped significantly during the past decade, especially with the adoption of PMTCT Option.

According to the ministry, Vertical infections were 5,321 in 2020

“Break through MTCT is still seen among women who drop off ART during pregnancy and breast feeding, and among women who acquire new HIV infections in pregnancy or breast feeding period, as well as the few women who don’t attend antenatal care,” Nabbanja said.

She says the programme has designed strategies to address these break through infections as part of the wider four-pronged strategy of PMTCT.

New HIV Infections

As a result of increased ART enrolment and other HIV prevention measures implemented in the country during the past decade, Nabanja says new HIV infections fell drastically by about 52%.

“New infections were 38,000 in 2020,” she reported.

She says the programme is now working out strategies to meet the target of 90% drop in new infections by2030.

HIV Treatment

Nabbanja says provision of HIV treatment to PLHIV continued to grow during the past 5 years, with ART enrolment rising from 720,000 individuals in 2015 to 1.27 million in 2020.

“This is equivalent to 90% coverage of ART among PLHIV, with the national target for the first and second 90s exceeded among adult men and women, though not so among children,” she said.

In the next 5 years, Nabanja says, the programme will aim to achieve the triple 95 targets among all population groups, while reducing treatment drop out.

Curb Theft of Drugs at Health Facilities

Nabbanja says the MoH has provided tools for management of stocks of medicines at dispensing and stores levels.

According to Nabbanja, last mile delivery of medicines is done by National Medical Stores and deliveries are witnessed by the GISO, Representative of the Health Unit Management Committee, Internal Auditor and Health Unit in-Charge while stock status reports for critical items e.g. ARVs, Antimalarial, vaccines, TB drugs are presented to the Health Policy Advisory Committee every 2 months.

As a result of this measure, drugs are now available in the medical facilities.

Reduce Absenteeism and negligence of duty

Nabbanja says an Automated Attendance Analysis system was rolled out in all districts in Uganda and monthly reports are submitted to the districts and MoH.

She notes that some Local Governments have taken swift disciplinary action on staff missing or absconding on duty as per the standing orders, including awarding certificates of recognition, deletion from payroll, dismissals, etc

Meanwhile, according to Nabbanja, in FY 2018/19, salary increments for medical personnel and other cadres were effected. This has attracted and motivated health workers.

She says, MoH is proposing recentralization of some key staff in LGs for effective management.

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