Kalangala has unique challenges, when compared with the rest of the country
Netherlands has pledged to increase access to health services, especially in the HIV/AIDS fight, the country's ambassador to Uganda, Alphones Henekens has said.
He made the call during an annual AIDS review forum for Kalangala district held at the district council hall.
The forum was held to assess efforts in the HIV/AIDS intervention and also chat the way forward.
"I am going to be my country's ambassador to ensure that the most needed health services reach communities in Ssese Islands," Henekens said.
He noted that Kalangala has unique challenges, when compared with the rest of the country.
Kenekens said most of the guidelines for the entire nation cannot suit the island communities directly because much of the Ministry of Health is mandated to deliver health commodities like drugs at all health facilities, when it comes to accessing those drugs it is not very easy in the islands given the nature of geography.
He said the scattered islands and being the hard-to-reach area makes accessibility to most of the services a big concern yet as per the ministry's guidelines for them they advocate for static services instead of taking drugs to communities like people in Kalangala district have been advocating for.
"Kalangala is a very unique district, not only geographically but also with the statistics. Seventy percent of the population is comprised of fishing communities that have long been known as an underserved population, vulnerable to HIV as well as a range of other infectious and non-infectious disease," he said.
Out of a population of 55,000, over 10,000 people are living with HIV. HIV prevalence rate of 18% is the highest in the country with landing sites at 25-35% compared to villages at 10-15%.
With the geographic nature of the district sitting on 84 islands 64 of which are settled on, it is difficult to make inter-island connectivity and hence access to services difficult and very costly.
"For example, fuel used on water cannot be the same fuel used in other parts of the country on land. Government should look at particular areas and design unique localized solutions for those areas like Kaangala district," he said.
Henekens appreciated the contributions made by all the development partners and stakeholders to which the success attained by Kalangala over the years from a prevalence estimated at about 26% in 2006 to now 18% is due to their combined efforts.
He also acknowledged the Embassy of Netherlands and Belgium for providing educational opportunities to the staff in Kalanngala.
He encouraged the integration of other services such as the Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), income generation, education and other services for a holistic approach if the achievements so far attained are to be sustained.
Speaking on the same occasion, the district chairperson/Kalangala, Lugoolobi Willy Bageyente said the struggle to extend quality health service delivery has been on in Kalangala district since 1989 when they assumed a district status under the Local Government setting.
He said that to effectively execute its mandates the district has taken a step to coordinate health and health related responses to ensure that the identified needs in social sector are addressed beyond outputs to outcomes.
"Our strategies further goes ahead to assess and develop interventions that will enhance the functionality of the district leadership in improving service delivery.
However, given the unique geographical nature, the district is faced with a number of challenges in the health sector that requires concerted efforts by both the district and the development partners," he said.
Some of the challenges include: high maternal mortality rate, high mortality rate of less than five years, high HIV prevalence rate, high prevalence of TB especially among people living with HIV/AIDS, high malaria cases and law uptake of family planning and reproductive health services.
Other challenges are high incidences in hygiene and sanitation related diseases, high number of Vulnerable groups ( OVCs, PWDs, Women without property, Girl child and victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence), inadequate infrastructure development capacities, high cost of service delivery in islands communities, inter island connectivity that is making accessibility very difficult etc.