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A year of waragi deaths

By Vision Reporter

Added 27th December 2009 03:00 AM

THE manufacture and sell of sachet waragi was banned in a crackdown on poisonous alcohol that claimed 19 lives. The Government ordered all Waragi suppliers to apply afresh for licenses.

THE manufacture and sell of sachet waragi was banned in a crackdown on poisonous alcohol that claimed 19 lives. The Government ordered all Waragi suppliers to apply afresh for licenses.

By Halima Shaban

THE manufacture and sell of sachet waragi was banned in a crackdown on poisonous alcohol that claimed 19 lives. The Government ordered all Waragi suppliers to apply afresh for licenses.

Other alcoholic drinks packed in polythene bags were also banned.
The health minister, Stephen Mallinga said at least 27 others were admitted in various hospitals as a result of drinking the poisonous waragi.

Edward Kahuma, an epidemiologist says the Uganda National Bureau of Standards(UNBS) should work with the health ministry to confiscate counterfeit products which account for some deaths in the country.

The use of methanol in preparing alcohol should be banned too.
There is need for a policy to regulate the licensing of facilities like bars and bufundas (drinking places) and the buying and selling of alchohol.

Dreaded swine flu hits
In July the dreaded swine flu (Influenza A) virus hit Uganda.
“On July 1st, a 40-year-old male who arrived in Uganda on June 26 from London via Nairobi to Entebbe without any symptoms was confirmed to have Influenza A by our laboratories in Entebbe,” says James Kakooza, the state minister for health.

Uganda confirmed six cases of the virus. Five were Ugandans while the fifth was a British national.
During this time, surveillance at Entebbe International Airport and the border post of Malaba were beefed up fol
lowing the confirmation of a swine flu case in neighbouring

Kenya. However, Mpimbaza Hashaka, the Tororo district swine flu taskforce chairperson, complained of lack of supplies.

World Health Organisation boosted Uganda’s preparedness with over 40,000 doses of Tami flu antiviral drugs and 25 pairs of protective equipment for health workers and attendants in case the disease broke out.

Isolation camps were also set up at Entebbe and Mulago hospitals. Influenza A broke out in Mexico in April before spreading to other countries.

The swine flu outbreak also affected various schools in Uganda prompting health ministry to issue a ban, stopping parents from visiting students in boarding schools.

Kakooza says there were 206 samples taken from schools allover the country with 75 confirming the viral infection. Thirty eight were from schools and the remaining 37 from the general population. Congestion and the difficulty in assessing infected people led to the high spread.

Kahuma says the Government must always be prepared to handle epidemics. In 1998 during the Ebola outbreak, the Government
was caught napping.

We lost very resourceful persons including Dr. Matthew Lukwiya. Since then, serious and minor epidemics have taken place almost every year,”he says.
The last Ebola epidemic which occurred in 2007 claimed the lives of several health workers, including Dr. Jonah Kule.

The question is, when will the Government learn to take the necessary precautions before such epidemics occur?

Health centre IIIs in crisis
In August a senior midwife and three nurses of Mityana Hospital were arrested over neglect of duty that led to the death of a woman in labour and her baby.

Sylvia Nalubowa, was pregnant with twins and was referred from Maanyi Health centre to Mityana Hospital after she developed complications.

“In Maanyi, Nalubowa delivered a baby boy normally. But the nurses told us that there was a second baby and they could not help her deliver it,” Rhoda Ssetenda, the mother-in-law of the deceased, narrated.

The two arrived at the hospital at about 7:00pm, but the patient remained unattended because she did not have enough money.

Although public health services are provided free of charge in Uganda, the poor quality of services and lack of appropriate medicines in health facilities continues to result in reliance on the formal and informal private health care providers.

In September, Health Minister Mallinga made an impromptu visit to a health centre in Mubende district.

To his dismay, by 11:00am, the centres had not been opened. The in-charge was reported to have been informed about the minister’s presence and rushed to the health centre where the minister ordered for his arrest on account of neglect of duty.

Whereas Mallinga was surprised to find a health centre III in Mubende closed during working hours, a Saturday Vision survey established that it is a normal occurrence countrywide.

According to the survey, most health centre IIIs upcontry open for a few hours, although they are supposed to operate 24 hours.

Kisomoro Health Centre III in Kabarole, Riki Health Centre III in Arua, Bwikara Health Centre in Kibaale and Mugarama Health Centre III in Buyanja count were some of the health centres the minister visited.

PS Nanono suspended
Permanent secretary, Mary Nanono was suspended after President Yoweri Museveni criticised theft and corruption in the public service and in the health sector.

Dr. Joseph Isanga, the health official in charge of Dodoth sub-district, was arrested for diverting drugs worth sh20m in Kaabong district.

FGM and HIV/AIDS
In December, Parliament passed a Bill prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Persons who carry out FGM risk up to 10 years imprisonment on conviction and life imprisonment in case the procedure results into the death of the victim, disability or HIV/AIDS infection. The Bill also criminalises poeple who consent to the practice.

Breakthroughs
A new brand of female condoms found to increase sexual libido among its users was introduced.
Unlike the old one, introduced in 2007 and made of latex, the new one is made of artificial rubber and does not make noise during sex.

Mallinga says, the Government will spend $600m (about sh1.1 trillion) to renovate and upgrade health facilities to cater for the increased demand for services.

Only 49% of households in Uganda have access to health facilities. In rural areas, the majority of the populations live in abject poverty.

HIV/AIDS status
Uganda was chosen as the headquarters of the African AIDS Vaccine Programme (AAVP) that will coordinate the AIDS vaccine research in Africa.

The programme which was formerly hosted in Geneva under the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNAIDS will be hosted by the Uganda Virus Research Institute in Entebbe.

However, our songs of praise for having brought down HIV infections from an assumed 18% to 6.4% have dried on our lips because it has stagnated there.

Dr. Kihumuro Apuli, the director general of the Uganda AIDS Commission said other countries are performing better and we face a possible reversal of the HIV trend in Uganda if we do not reboot our commitment.

And finally...
The year 2009 was full of challenges for The Ministry of Health. A Rare brain disease (‘nodding disease’) that causes seizures, affected over 200 children.
The children became physically and mentally stunted, which lead to blindness and even death.

The ministry also launched a plague control programme in Nebbi and Arua districts after threats of the Bubonic plague outbreak from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Dr. Patrick Anguzu, the Arua medical officer warned against it. However, the ministries of health from both countries held talks and addressed the problem.

Talking of epidemics, Hepatitis E in Kaabong district killed over 12 people and 210 were admitted.

A year of waragi deaths

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