The new US Ambassador to Uganda Ms. Deborah Malac preparing to address staff members of St. Mary’s Hospital-Lacor outside Gulu town on Wednesday, May 4, 2016.
“The United States will continue to do its part to improve the health of Ugandans, but Ugandans “must” do theirs. Authorities “must” take responsibility for health programs, to eliminate corruption, and operate in a transparent manner with all health funding”.
GULU-UGANDA: The new United States Ambassador to Uganda, Ms Deborah Malac has called on Ugandan authorities to take full responsibility for her health programs, eliminate all forms of corruption and to operate all health funds in a transparent manner.
“The United States will continue to do its part to improve the health of Ugandans, but Ugandans “must” do theirs. Authorities must take responsibility for health programs, eliminate corruption, and operate in a transparent manner with all health funding”, she said.
Ambassador Malac made this remark from St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor, at the end of a two-day maiden visit to inspect health projects supported by the US government in northern Uganda.
“It is an honor to be at Lacor Complex Hospital this afternoon. I could not visit the North without coming to Lacor-the largest private, non-profit, Catholic-based institution in Uganda”, she said.
She urged the government of Uganda to increase the annual domestic resource allocation for HIV so that we (US and Uganda) can maximize and sustain the gains from the current investment.
The US government has supported Lacor Hospital in improving HIV health services in the region since 2004. Currently the program supports 6,570 patients on antiretroviral treatment. It also handles other range of health needs including tuberculosis and HIV-related infections. The fund has been channeled through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but soon it will be through USAID regional partners.
“Soon though, you we shall channel our support through our regional partners, but my team will ensure a smooth transition, without disrupting services”, the Ambassador noted, adding “the US government remains committed to offering quality HIV services to the people of Uganda, and Lacor is a critical part of this”.
“Lacor is making great strides, but the battle against HIV is far from over. You must continue the good work in the region until 90% of those who are positive know their status, 90% of those who are positive are getting treatment, and 90% of those reach viral load suppression”, said Ambassador Malac.
However, the Executive Director of Uganda Catholic Medical Bureau, Dr. Sam Orach expressed worry about this transition.
“Although a decision has been made by the US Mission in Uganda, to support all HIV/AIDS services through regional mechanisms, we have our anxieties as to how exactly this mode of support is likely to affect the quality of services in our facilities, especially large volume ones like Lacor”, said Dr. Orach.
Welcoming Ambassador Malac, Archbishop of Gulu Archdiocese, John Baptist Odama, said the formula for relationship between the US and Lacor should be “Addition” and no “Subtraction” of funding.
The Ambassador, however allayed fears by Dr. Orach and Archbishop Odama, saying funds will continue to flow to Lacor despite the changes.
“Those on ART will continue to stay on treatment, and pregnant women who go through the antenatal care will continue to get HIV-tested at their first visit… your location, far away from the capital, enables those in this part of the country access to quality care”, she said.
Ambassador Malac, had on Tuesday commissioned a Ward at the Gulu Regional Referral Hospital meant for treating in-patients with Multi-Drug Resistance Tuberculosis’ which was constructed with funds from USAID at a cost of $3914 (UGX.13 million).
Transparency International ranks Uganda as one of the world’s top most corrupt countries. In ranking from O point (for most corrupt country) to 100 point (for corruption free country) Uganda scores 26 points. Uganda also tops in the East African region on corruption index.
According to ActionAid Non-Governmental Organization, Uganda looses $300 million annually to corruption and a further $208 million in tax giveaways annually. In the 2015/16 Financial Year, Uganda budgeted a paltry $7.5 million for the health sector out of a total $47 million (UGX.15.5 trillion).