The Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) has asked Parliament’s Budget Committee to reinstate a 10 billion Shillings allocation for Emergency Medical Services and Disease outbreak response to enable them to keep in operations.
In the financial year 2019/2020, the government committed a budgetary allocation of 10 billion Shillings to support the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Disease Outbreak response and another 1 billion for the mobilization of blood donors.
However, in the last three financial years, the Uganda Red Cross Society has been receiving 9.4 billion Shillings for emergency response, and the money was further reduced in the current financial year 2022/2023 to 5.02 billion.
Through Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Uganda Red Cross provides first aid and provides ambulance services and according to the organization, the program funded through the Ministry of Health is improving the timeliness of the provision of emergency medical care to victims of road accidents. To date, URCS operates 21 ambulances, and their deployment is managed through a call and dispatch center.
Since 2020 to date, 2,477 victims of road accidents have been evacuated from scenes to health facilities for specialized services, 1,138 Covid-19 patients evacuated to treatment facilities, 548 cases of other medical emergencies evacuated and 620 Ebola suspects and alerts evacuated to isolation centers.
However, Robert Kwesiga, the URCS Secretary General said that out of the 21 ambulances, five for disease outbreak response have reached the end of their life cycle and just left one year before they are bonded.
He told the committee that new and more ambulances are required to replace the five ambulances and increase the fleet.
Kwesiga noted that the significant decrease in the funds for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Disease Outbreaks have grossly affected their response. He requested that the 10 billion Shillings budget is reinstated in the next financial year 2023/2024. He says that this will enable URCS to continue responding to road traffic injuries and save lives in time, creating public awareness on road safety, provision of first aid and ambulance services for national events, prevention, preparedness, and response to disease outbreaks.
Red Cross also seeks an allocation of 2 billion Shillings to facilitate blood donor mobilization next financial year 2023/2024. In the last financial years, Red Cross has been receiving 1 billion Shillings for the activity and now seeks additional funding of 1 billion.
Under their disaster preparedness and response, Kwesiga appealed to the committee to reinstitute a 12.56 billion Shillings budget to support the Uganda Red Cross predict, prepare and respond to disasters and related emergencies in the country in collaboration with the government through the Office of the Prime Minister.
On 14th September 2022, the Government through the Office of the Prime Minster signed a Memorandum of Understanding detailing its support to the Red Cross to strengthen its first responder mechanism towards sustainable and timely Community Level Disaster Preparedness and Response.
Kwesiga said that in the current financial year 2023/2024, the Office of the Prime Minister developed an annual work plan and budget of 12.56 billion to support URCS under the collaboration but only 7 billion was appropriated.
He added that out of the appropriated 7 billion Shillings, 1.16 billion has been released to Uganda Red Cross by the Ministry of Finance.
According to Kwesiga, together with OPM, they are pioneering innovative emergency water sanitation and hygiene, rapid disaster data collection and response, tracing and family reunification, training and equipping reserve standby Community-Based Disaster Management Search and Rescue teams, and first responder mechanisms aimed at providing essential lifesaving services to vulnerable people in Uganda.
He told MPs that for the next financial year 2023/2024, they have again drafted an annual budget of 12.56 billion Shillings for disaster preparedness and response. Out of this, 6.91 billion is proposed for deploying and delivering rapid support towards saving life, livelihoods, and property following a disaster occurrence, 3.8 billion to support existing government’s multi-hazard preparedness tools for early warning, and 1.83 billion for operational and administrative support.
Wamakuyu Mudimi, the Budget Committee Vice Chairperson said that the Uganda Red Cross Society needs to be supported considering that donors are scaling down their operations.
Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) is a membership humanitarian organization with over 500,000 members and volunteers. It was incorporated in 1964 following the enactment of the Red Cross Act, Cap 57 as an auxiliary to the government and other public authorities exercising their obligations as per the Geneva Conventions.