By Francis Kagolo
The Global Alliance for Vaccines (GAVI) has issued fresh warning to Uganda, asking the Government to ensure that the $20m (about sh51b) the organisation disbursed for immunisation campaigns last month is put to proper use.
Dr. Maryse Dugue, the head of Anglophone Africa country programmes at the GAVI secretariat in Switzerland, said they would keep a keen eye on the expenditures and would not hesitate to freeze the funding again if any money is stolen.
“We have contracted a local audit firm to provide technical assistance to the ministry of health in terms of financial management. We will closely monitor this cash support,” Dugue revealed.
“We hope the funds will not be misappropriated this time. (But) if something happens we will again freeze the funding,” she added.
Dr. Dugue issued the warning during the inauguration of the national Civil Society Organisation Immunisation Platform (CIP) at Africana Hotel, Kampala.
The network aims at strengthening health systems for immunisation through mobilising for more resources, sensitising the public and promoting transparency and accountability.
Uganda missed GAVI funds for over six years since 2006 when the organisation suspended cash support to the country following the misappropriation of the $4.3m (about sh7,6b).
Some public officials were found guilty of stealing the funds even as the then health ministers Jim Muhwezi, Mike Mukula and Dr. Alex Kamugisha were acquitted.
The suspension of funding affected the country so much that immunization coverage dropped from 83% in 2008 to 76% in 2009/10, according to health ministry statistics.
As the downward trend continued, the national immunization coverage reached 52% in 2011, turning Uganda into one of the countries with the lowest number of fully immunised children in the world.
To revitalise the immunisation campaign, GAVI last month provided $20m mainly for a two-year project involving mainly procuring cold-chain equipment for vaccines and construct staff quarters in some underserved districts.
Dr. Dugue said Uganda would qualify for more funding if the project is well implemented.
Health minister Dr. Christine Ondoa commended the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) for launching a network for immunisation, saying that service delivery could only improve if transparency and accountability are upheld.
“There's declining immunisation coverage trend in Uganda. We need to reverse this decline collectively in a program of joint action and cooperation,” Ondo said in a speech delivered by Dr. Dennis Lwamafa, acting director general of health services.
“CSOs have a long history of involvement in public health and have proven to be successful in finding innovative ways to reach marginalised and hard to reach populations, particularly where government delivery channels are weak or non-existent.”
The minister called for equity in the provision of immunisation services so that even the voiceless vulnerable groups are catered for.
GAVI warns Uganda over misusing sh51b new funding