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Uganda launches sh367.6bn health response plan for refugees

By John Semakula

Added 29th January 2019 12:03 PM

Speaking at the launch of the plan, the Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, noted that the plan is a sign that Uganda is translating her commitment to the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants of 2016

Uganda launches sh367.6bn health response plan for refugees

Speaking at the launch of the plan, the Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, noted that the plan is a sign that Uganda is translating her commitment to the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants of 2016

Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda. Photo/File

Uganda has launched a Health Sector Integrated Refugee Response Plan (HSIRRP) 2019-2024, geared at ensuring that refuges and their host communities have access to equitable and well-coordinated access to health services.

Uganda hosts the biggest number of refugees in Africa and the 3rd largest in the world. The government is now looking for $100 (about sh367.6b) annually to run the HSIRRP for the next five years.

According to the Ministry, HSIRRP is expected to contribute to the national objective of improving the health status of host communities and refugees through building a resilient health system that can withstand shocks and guarantee sustainable and equitable access to essential health services.

The strategic intervention will be implemented under six pillars, namely: service delivery, human resource for health, medicines (health commodities and technologies), health management information system, health financing, and leadership coordination, management and governance.

Speaking at the launch of the plan at Hotel Africana on Friday, the Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, noted that the plan is a sign that Uganda is translating her commitment to the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants of 2016 and the recently adopted Global Compact on refugees.

However, Rugunda noted that despite wanting to provide better health services for refugees, their presence in extremely large numbers in Uganda overwhelms demands on the already overstretched capacities and resources of the state and of host communities, to cater for land, food, water and sanitation, among others.

"But yes, we remain committed to maintaining and promoting asylum space in a context, where the majority of refugees may not have a solution for the foreseeable future," Rugunda said, before asking partners to continue supporting the country to take care of the refugees.

"In Uganda, we look at refugees as an opportunity as opposed to a burden. Nobody chooses to be a refugee until unavoidable circumstances prevail. At the same time, the challenge before us is too big for one country, one community or one sector to handle," he added.

In a statement, health permanent secretary, Dr. Diana Atwine, observed that the move operationalises the provisions for the refugees in the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995, the Refugee Act 2006 and the Refugee Regulations 2010.

"The plan is the first pragmatic step by the Ministry in providing technical leadership in aligning the refugee health response to the National Health Policy (NHP) and the Health Sector Development Plan (HSDP) for the mutual benefit of refugees and host communities," Atwine said.

The launch of the health sector plan comes four months after the launch of a similar plan in the education sector.    

Under the different pillars, the ministry will promote life style education including physical, WASH, housing, solid waste management, management of cultural practices that promote and harm health, disease prevention and response activities, vaccination, sexual, reproductive, maternal, neonatal child and adolescent health, nutrition, screening, among others.

The ministry intends to construct health centres and mortuaries, extending electricity to healthy facilities in refugee communities, and to provide referral and ambulance services in the refugee communities among others.

Uganda, with 1.2 million refugees from the neighbouring countries such as South Sudan and Burundi has an open policy that allows refugees to enter the country, settle within the host communities, use land for production and even seek employment if they are skilled.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, noted that the development of the HSIRRP was government-led and followed a participatory consultative and transparent process with strong participation of development partners.

"It took time, effort and commitment of a strong multidisciplinary team that worked tirelessly from conceptualising the plan to the related literature searches, and continuous consultations with wide range of stakeholders," Aceng said.

The launch was attended by diplomats and heads of government missions, local government leaders from the host districts, who included LC5 chairpersons, chief administrative officers, Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) and NGO representatives and Ministry officials. 

Uganda praised

During the launch, Uganda received praises from different groups of people, who included development partners, and refugees. Suzan Grace Duku, a refugee from South Sudan, living at Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement, commended government for the generosity that allows refugees to settle and share resources with the host communities.

"Our humble request to donors is to continue funding Uganda to run refugee projects," Duku said.

Taban Yasin, the LC5 chairman for Yumbe district, also noted that the working relationship between development partners, government officials and local governments of the host communities have improved significantly. Yasin, however, called for improved communications between the Ministry of Health teams and local governments, regarding matters of refugees.   

The representative of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to Uganda Joel Boutroue commended Uganda for the plan, arguing that it is a great milestone and just another example of how Uganda continues to pave the way globally in providing dignified asylum through access to basic services.

"We should not tire of repeating that Uganda is a beacon as concerns its progressive refugee policy which provides a beautiful example to the world," Boutroue said.

The Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Eng. Hilary Onek assured refugees in Uganda that government will provided them with the necessary security.

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