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Uganda has capacity to fight the coronavirus but is resource-limited

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Added 19th February 2020 02:54 PM

We are resource-limited yes, but with our strong national commitment combined with robust international support, has seen us develop the prospect of minimizing epidemics in Uganda and this is not questionable.

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James William Mugeni

We are resource-limited yes, but with our strong national commitment combined with robust international support, has seen us develop the prospect of minimizing epidemics in Uganda and this is not questionable.

By James William Mugeni

The capacity to fight and resource limitations mean different things. I am writing this article as a response to the notion created by our ministry of health going public and saying Uganda has no capacity.

As a clinical officer who has been in epidemic settings including Ebola and many years of HIV/AIDS, we were trained to respond to diseases in a resource-limited setting.

There was a time when we emphasized fight HIV/AIDS don’t spread fear. It is wrong for a whole country to pass information using the ministry responsible for health to give the impression that we don’t have the capacity. This raises public fear other than confidence.

We must stand against this fear and respond with solidarity instead. We must use our power to uphold human rights and the inherent dignity of every single person. Of the many findings that have stemmed from the dignity of dying that I studied as a Nursing student I will quote Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov’who has extensive research into the dignity of the dying, there is one he describes as intriguing and the source of a personal manifestation as a human being before God.

“It is that people who are dying are profoundly influenced by their perceptions of how they are seen by others. They need to see, reflected in the eyes and actions of those caring for them, recognition of the person they are. Dignity is lost when a focus on their illness or disease leaves them with the sense they have been defined generically as a patient and that is all they have become”.

“It boils down to ‘I’m not just a patient; but a person with a history, relationships, a past, desires and dreams’,” Dr. Chochinov says. (UGANDANA IN CHINA)

“You want an affirmation of personhood reflected in your health care provider’s eyes, not a problem checklist, differential diagnosis or medication list.”

His work aims to help health care professionals treat people, addressing body, mind, and spirit. Much of his research has occurred at the bedside of dying patients and their families “to find out what dignity means in the context of approaching death”.

The impact that patients’ perceptions have on their wellbeing has significant implications for everyone working within the health care system, Dr. Chochinov says, whether they be a cleaner, work in patient transport, or a clinician.

“When we are in the presence of patients, we can offer them some affirmation of their sense of personhood,” he says.

We are told don’t allow a dying person to look like someone electrocuted with tubes hanging in everybody opening but to be with relatives holding their hands and never forget to take down notes for their will.

Ugandans in China are not yet dead, but what if they must face death in China. We cannot provide relatives in China, but Ugandan health workers can be of help.

We also know that fear and misinformation about this virus have spread faster than any illness, with their partners, xenophobia, and prejudice, not far behind. This must be addressed by providing a global face to the pandemic.

For our country to declare its people who are alive not wanted when they are alive is absolutely unprofessional and this has come from Ministers, one wonders why these ministers were not guided by professionals!

The coronavirus 2019-nCoV prompted the World Health Organisation to declare a public health emergency of international concern, for fear that this virus could prove dangerous to impoverished countries with weaker health systems. But China, USA, Britain, and many Asian countries have the capacity. Why are we talking of countries with weaker health systems in the world of plenty? I know with diseases there are no boundaries.

We know this virus will disproportionately hurt those people, communities, and countries already most vulnerable, which means a response that prioritizes the needs of the most marginalised is essential. The Epicentre for this disease is China several countries have their citizens in China the response is to call all countries subscribing to WHO or specifically those with people in China to send a workforce China and this workforce trained and engaged.

Our Uganda experience work with the prevention, care, and treatment of many infectious diseases (including Ebola, HIV, TB, cholera, and Zika) has taught us that providing health care as a human right is the most important aspect of infection control.

We are resource-limited yes, but with our strong national commitment combined with robust international support, has seen us develop the prospect of minimizing epidemics in Uganda and this is not questionable.

We have been relied on in providing the workforce for our neighbouring countries. We have our capacity in HIV/AIDS winning us worldwide recognition. Coronavirus is not a serious public health threat if we summoned our efforts of the past everything appears feasible. Combined with our political commitment to diseases and a strong health workforce, we should allow science to guide our response. CHINA, WHO, CDC needs to support Uganda and other countries to set up response teams since all resources for this disease is associated with big economies.

Like HIV/AIDS Ideology seems to be outweighing science in the Coronavirus response (and in much of public health in general). Harmful political choices, including criminalization and unscientific public health programs, have led to predictably bad health outcomes, leaving many countries and regions with no end to AIDS insight.

The writer is medical clinical officer

wmungadi@gmail.com

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