By Henry Sekanjako and Misairi Thembo Kahungu
Journalists @New Vision
The Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among, on Wednesday gave the Government one month to consider tabling a motion seeking approval of the House to consider a monthly remuneration for Village Health Teams (VHTs).
The Speaker’s directive followed a motion presented by Buhaguzi East legislator Stephen Itaza Aseera who proposed to Parliament to urge the Government to pay a monthly retainer of sh100,000 to each VHT, which is an improvement from the current consideration of sh10,000.
“Prime Minister, can you take over the motion and bring it as Government within one month? Kindly solve this problem so that they (VHTs) can perform very well,” ruled Speaker Among.
VHTs were established by the Ministry of Health to empower communities to take part in the decisions that affect their health; mobilize communities for health programs, and strengthen the delivery of health services at the household level.
They are the first point of call whenever people fall sick in their homes and have also played a role of identifying pregnant mothers and sensitizing them on the need to go for antenatal care.
The Speaker did not allow debate on the motion because it would contravene provisions of Article 93 of the Constitution since such an expenditure effect a charge on the Consolidated Fund. For Parliament to approve such resolutions, the Minister of Finance has to issue a Certificate of Financial Implication.
Asuman Basalirwa, the Bugiri municipality legislator said that much as the VHTs deserve a better allowance, there is a need for the government to be fully in charge of the matter adding that they have been running to MPs whenever in need.
“In fact, most of these VHTs in the constituencies are being facilitated by us. I want to propose that the government picks it up and takes it from here,” said Basalirwa.
Prime Minister, Robinah Nabbanja said that the Government in 2017 had handled the matter of increasing the pay for the VHTs but it has not been put into force because of the current financial constraints.
“You are aware that we are struggling to pay (arts) teachers. The motion has very good intentions, however, let me take it to the Government side, we will discuss and report back,” said Nabbanja.
Aseera in his motion said that there have been studies including one by the Ministry of Health in 2014 which revealed that the VHTs performance has not been as earlier anticipated because of poor facilitation.
“VHTs are paid sh10000 per month or Sh30000 per quarter which does not match the services rendered, given that the majority of the population lives far from health centres which makes VHTs indispensable to bridge the gap,” said Aseera.
He said that there is a high turnover of VHTs in the villages because they only get additional facilitation when they participate in occasional activities like mass immunisation at the time of an outbreak of a killer disease like polio.
Aseera said that since there is a resolution by the 10th Parliament to pay sh150000 monthly retainer for Community Health Extension Workers who are supposed to be recruited at Parish level from among the VHTs, the lower cadres need to be considered because they are the first point of call-in health matters.
A 2015 assessment by Pathfinder International, a nongovernmental organisation, recommended that there needs to be a review of the whole strategy of VHT including selection, training, contents, redefinition of roles and responsibilities of VHTs, and coordination structure at the national and district level.
The report also pointed out the need for the Government to have a clear commitment to adequately finance and institutionalize the VHT strategy and ensure their regular payments for sustainability of the programme.