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COVID-19 fight and human rights: How can government balance the boat?

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Added 17th April 2020 05:41 PM

One media house ran a story of a lady under quarantine giving birth without the assistance of a medical worker in what I would dub very poor conditions.

COVID-19 fight and human rights: How can government balance the boat?

Anne Karungi

One media house ran a story of a lady under quarantine giving birth without the assistance of a medical worker in what I would dub very poor conditions.

COVID-19 | HUMAN RIGHTS

By Anne Karungi


Coronavirus (COVID-19) is here and it is ravaging the planet. It came in unannounced and without warning. Governments can only harness ways to contain its spread and try and manage its symptoms.

Pharmaceuticals and medical giants, on the other hand, are working around the clock to develop a vaccine.

The uncertainty about the predicament we all find ourselves in is very daunting. It's a different reality and it is among us. Not even a Hollywood blockbuster could have pulled this off.

In Uganda, the President has put in place various measures in the form of Presidential Directives to stop the spread of this global pandemic.

Different schools of thought believe that to legitimize its actions the government would have declared a state of emergency. These are truly difficult times.  

It is times like these that amplify the plight of vulnerable and marginalized persons. Among the many directives issued by the President is the restriction on access to medical services.

Consequently, with the blanket restriction on movement, we have seen chilling images of expectant mothers walking long distances to health centres in order to obtain the services of a health worker.

Last week, a local television station ran a story of a father carrying his dying son and walking several miles to a health center only to get there a little too late, his son had passed away.

We have all seen women in labour give birth on the roadside due to a lack of means of transportation to the nearest health center.

One media house ran a story of a lady under quarantine giving birth without the assistance of a medical worker in what I would dub very poor conditions.

The media also ran a story of a pregnant woman in Luuka District who passed away while looking for clearance and transportation to the health center.

It is times like this that magnify the plight of the poor and vulnerable among us.

Our Constitution as the ‘grand norm', sets out our core principles and values as a people and a nation.

In the right to life under article 22(1) of our constitution is embedded the right to health.

The under the national objectives and directive principles of state policy laid out in our Constitution, specifically, Objective 20, the government undertakes to ensure the provision of basic health services to its people.

I would like to say that in decentralizing the health sector up to the village level. The Government has done well.

What the Government needs to do, is rethink its measures during this period.

The President hinted on the issue of the sick among us and the need for goodwill ambassadors to donate vehicles to distribute to the various districts which will assist in transporting the sick to the medical centers.

That is throwing the responsibility to the population.

 I believe, there is a need for a comprehensive plan even as we fight coronavirus.

Priority needs to be given this person;  

- living with HIV/AIDS who must access their anti-retroviral drugs

- expectant mothers who must access medical facilities for antenatal care or emergency medical support

- and those who are terminally ill and suffering from non-communicable diseases.

There is a need to strike a balance between protecting the country from the coronavirus pandemic and ensuring that the health needs of the populace are catered to.

The Government needs to adopt a comprehensive response mechanism that takes into account reactive measures to contain coronavirus, and protective measures to ensure that those already relying on the medical services for life are not denied their much-needed services.

My call to the Government is that let it prioritize resource allocation to the vital sectors of the economy. Uganda can do so much with the sh3b which was proposed for the Ministry of ICT to run billboards on coronavirus -that are not urgently relevant since we are all trying to stay home.

I call upon the Government to fully equip health centers I to IV across the country with needed medical supplies. 

Let the village councilors be equipped financially or otherwise in order to manage emergencies within their localities.

In me my interaction with some local councilors I have discovered that they have no funding to enable them to respond to the needs of the community during this sensitive period. We need a healthy population even after the Coronavirus.

The writer is a private practitioner with Muwema and Company Advocates and also vying for the office of President of the Uganda Law Society

 

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