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Health: Giant stride, more challenges

By Vision Reporter

Added 12th June 2011 03:00 AM

THE budgetary allocation to the health sector for the financial year 2011/2012 has slightly improved from sh660b last year to sh985b this year. While this covers the entire sector, particular areas have been singled out for specific budgetary attention.

THE budgetary allocation to the health sector for the financial year 2011/2012 has slightly improved from sh660b last year to sh985b this year. While this covers the entire sector, particular areas have been singled out for specific budgetary attention.

By Stephen Ssenkaaba
THE budgetary allocation to the health sector for the financial year 2011/2012 has slightly improved from sh660b last year to sh985b this year. While this covers the entire sector, particular areas have been singled out for specific budgetary attention.

Sh24b is to be set aside to cater for maternal and reproductive health. There will also be increased funding for drugs to a tune of sh96b. According to finance minister Maria Kiwanuka, Mulago, the national referral hospital, will be rehabilitated and maternal and child health centres constructed.

New district hospitals in Kawempe and Makindye divisions will also be set up. To quick eyes, this sounds like a significant boost. But when put in the proper context, the funding of the health sector continues to generate various concerns.

Compared to sectors like, education (allocated sh1.4 trillion), works and transport (allocated sh1.3 trillion) and energy and mineral development (allocated sh1.2 trillion), health has yet to feature among the priority areas.

Experts, ordinary people and stakeholders believe that while the allocation has improved, the challenges facing the health sector today far surmount the funding allocation to this very important sector.

“Government has made a good deliberate step to increase the budgetary allocation to the health sector, nevertheless, there are areas that need to be improved,” says Dr. Dan Murokora, the head of the Association of Uganda Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Uganda.

Murokora explains that for instance accountability in the implementation of programmes will have to be improved to make sure that the funds are put to good use. “There is need to ensure proper management of programmes and funds meant to support these programmes,” he says.

Murokora adds that while there is a plan to improve conditions of health workers, there is a more critical need to train more health workers and to deploy them.

The three medical schools in the country (Makerere, Mbarara and Gulu universities) produce an average of 160 graduates every year, very few of these are recruited to serve in the medical field.

These, added to improved and efficient monitoring and supervising of the health sector will go ahead in improving health service delivery in the country.

Murokora argues that even with the modest increase in support for the health sector, Uganda still falls short of the 15% allocation agreed upon by African leaders in 2001. The current increase is good but not sufficient. We need to see progressive increase in funding for the sector.

Dr. Jane Acan, a paediatrician, is also very positive about the budgetary improvements. She, however, thinks that a lot more emphasis should be put on support for HIV/AIDS initiatives, especially now that donor funding for it has reduced.

“Even though some money has been allocated to procurement of ARV drugs, in different parts of the country, it is more important that the provided drugs meet the needs of the people on the ground, only then will there impact be felt,” she saus.

Martin Kulubya, a resident of Kamuli in Kireka, says despite the increase in funding for the health sector, the budget may have very little meaningful impact, especially in rural areas.

“We still cannot find solace in this budget because it does not meet our basic health needs; we still find it difficult to access drugs, health units and other important implements.” Kulubya says as well as agriculture, health should be accorded more attention than it is being given.

Despite the improvements, many needs still need to be addressed. It will not be just a case of providing funds, but also proper use of funds will be critical to make meaningful impact.

Health: Giant stride, more challenges

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