• Nov 08, 2021 . 2 min Read
  • US envoy roots for vaccination

Butiime receiving Brown at Mweya in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kasese district last week
John Thawite
Journalist @New Vision

The US ambassador to Uganda, Natalie Brown, has urged all Ugandans to get vaccinated against the deadly coronavirus. Brown said getting vaccinated was critical for the re-opening of Uganda’s economy as recently announced by President Yoweri Museveni.

“If you are not vaccinated, do so and tell your friends to do the same, so that we can start gathering safely and resume the other activities that we have suspended in the past two years,” she said on Wednesday while speaking at Mweya in Queen Elizabeth national park, Kasese district.

Brown was in the area to commission a US-funded $6m (about sh22.2b) modern bio-safety laboratory level 2 for the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

It was constructed through the US Defence Threat Reduction Agency with technical support from a neighbouring district and the Uganda National Council of Science and Technology.

Brown announced that her government, through Uganda’s health ministry, had so far donated 2.3 million vaccine doses to Uganda “with more to come”.

She was received by tourism minister Tom Butiime, with whom she commissioned the laboratory, which is located near Mweya Safari Lodge.

The function was also part of a celebration of the national anniversary of the sixth international One Health Day.

UWA executive director Sam Mwandha said: “The facility will support our diagnostic and surveillance work, assist neighbouring districts with livestock diseases diagnosis and support the academia.”

He said the park is a man and biosphere reserve, with 11 human settlements that have a population of over 50,000 people, who depend on fishing, agriculture and subsistence livestock.

“This livestock-wildlife-human interaction presents a possible hotspot for disease outbreak and spread,” Mwandha said.

He said the laboratory was a great strategy to “ensure that timely attention is given to disease-related situations that may arise from the inevitable human-wildlife-livestock interactions.

Mwandha also said through UWA’s collaboration with Virunga National Park in the DR Congo, co-ordinated by the Greater Virunga Trans-Boundary Collaboration, the laboratory will also test samples shipped from the Virungas.

Butiime said the facility was the first of its kind for UWA. He said, according to Uganda’s Vision 2040, the tourism sector is set to become the mainstay of the economy, contributing the highest foreign exchange earnings, supporting tax revenue, employment and to GDP as a whole.

Butiime called for tighter control measures against trans-boundary disease transmission, which might result in several epidemic and pandemic consequences.

He said the advancement of climate change, globalisation, increased human population and urbanisation, intense human-wildlife-livestock interactions and the rapidly changing land use patterns, were partly responsible for the emerging infectious diseases worldwide.

Butiime said Uganda was open to supporting other countries in the region to detect, diagnose and curtail trans-border disease transmissions arising from the trans-boundary nature of the protected areas and the cross-border movements of people and wildlife.

The commissioning was part of the ambassador’s visit to the Rwenzori region to monitor and assess the impact of US health investments in HIV programmes, maternal and child health initiatives and disease outbreaks, as well as emergency response efforts under the global health security agenda in Uganda.

“During her meeting with Centre for Disease Control Partner, Baylor Uganda, Brown was briefed about the long-term impact of the US-funded “Saving Mothers Giving Life,” said a statement from the embassy.

Despite ending five years ago, the project still benefits mothers with pre[1]term babies as Baylor Uganda helps maintain the Neo-natal intensive care unit equipment and continues to train health workers across the region in quality neonatal care.

“NGOs and CSOs, such as Baylor-Uganda, are critical to the success of the US investments in Uganda, including in the health sector,” Brown was quoted as saying while meeting various beneficiaries.

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