They stated that they were also writing to the President on behalf of their communities to express what they termed as “deep dismay” at the alarming difficult situations that women and children are currently going through as they try to access health care services during this period of the lock-down.
The HIV Civil Society Organisations have applauded President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni for what they termed as his tireless efforts to ensure that Ugandans remain safe during the critical period of the dreaded Corona Contagion.
In what they called "an open letter to the President of the Republic of Uganda," a copy of which The New Vision saw, the organisations said: "We thank you for providing the leadership at the highest level, together with the Prime Minister's Office, the Ministry of Health, all the Security Organs and Uganda AIDS Commission and all Development partners, who are spending tireless nights to make sure Ugandans remain free from COVID-19 and, those who are infected are treated," the letter states in parts."
The letter went on, "The Uganda HIV Civil Society Organisations have taken seriously your guidance and are working with our communities to ensure compliance.
We have come up with a structure to deliver on our mandate, contributing to the government efforts. These include but are not limited to community mobilisation, messaging on prevention and control of COVID-19 and providing emergency services possible."
The HIV organisations, however, expressed concern about "access to the healthcare services," that they must access at all times, suggesting that the Government should place those services at the centres of COVID-19 Response.
They stated that they were also writing to the President on behalf of their communities to express what they termed as "deep dismay" at the alarming difficult situations that women and children are currently going through as they try to access health care services during this period of the lock-down.
"This difficult situation has led to several deaths of pregnant mothers and their babies that have been reported in several parts of Uganda. We continue to receive daily outcries from several people especially those living with HIV and other non-communicable diseases, who are unwell and not able to travel to places where they are supposed to access medical services," they stated.
Your Excellency, they further stated, your people may survive COVID-19 but, unfortunately many may not survive as pregnant women and other people in very critical moments may not be able to immediately remember the emergency telephone numbers they are supposed to call for their rescue.
The letter stated that labour pains may come in the middle of the night when even the RDCs are not available in their offices as they do not work beyond normal working time. They cited a case of a sickly child in Mityana with a high temperature who needed immediate attention by a health worker but his parents could not save their dear child's life due to lack of permission.
"Because of the situation under such circumstances, many people may find themselves not only in dilemma, but also in a very precarious situation. Such situations should not wait for permission of the RDCs, RCCs, who may not even be in their offices," they said.
Quoting the President's directives of March 30, 2020 calling on the public to seek permission from the RDCs in cases of emergency and on April 2, 2020 where the Ministry of Transport emphasized that Police Officers authority, Lillian Mworeko from International Community of Women Living with HIV Eastern Africa (ICWEA), said the Government should allow pregnant women to travel to hospitals, without clearance to move, stressing that with such directives the situation remains challenging.
Dora Kiconco, executive director, Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS (UGANET), said that the interpretation by those who are supposed to implement the directives has left a lot to be desired and, therefore even when a vehicle is carrying a person who is in a critical condition, some security officers have gone ahead to impound it putting the sick inside it in a very precarious situation, with her or his life in real danger.
The executive director, Stella Kentutsi, National Forum of PLHIV Networks in Uganda (NAFOPHANU), suggested that Ambulances and other Government vehicles should be readily available at the community levels and where such a situation is not possible, through the LC Chairperson's authorization, personal vehicles by well-wishers including boda-bodas, should be allowed transport the sick as long as they have a letter of authority from the LC1 Chairpersons, who in case of doubt can be called on phone by the police on duty to explain further.
"The power to grant permission should be decentralized in such a way that the Local Council Chairpersons (LCs) should be left to handle emergencies as they are the ones who best know their people, such as the pregnant women, the terminal and non-terminal sick, who need constant medical attention," Kentutsi proposed.
Mwehonge Kenneth - Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS Uganda), proposed that the structure of LC1 systems works so well to the extent that almost all LC Chairpersons know their residents when it comes to emergencies.
"They should be the first people to be approached and we trust they will do and have been doing a good job of prevention of COVID-19 and other diseases in efforts to prevent deaths. The RDCs should be left to handle situations that are non-emergency in Nature," he said.
The HIV organizations further stated in their letter that they are happy that the medical personnel have been cleared for permits to travel without restrictions, but suggested that the process of issuing permits is fast tracked.
As access to food and other essential commodities is critical during this period of the lockdown, we, therefore, commend the government for its efforts towards to fulfil its obligation. We, however, are asking your excellence that guidelines and or a statutory instrument be issued in this process, otherwise the intended people may be left out.
Nicholas Niwagaba, ED Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV (UNYPA), Dr
Lydia Mungherera of Mamas Club and Richard Lusimbo from SMUG Uganda pointed out that if the issue of foods and other nutritional foods is not handled with special care, groups that may miss out on this exercise are People living with HIV, yet nutritional support is critical for adherence to treatment and prevention of further HIV infections and COV1D-19.