Uganda embarks on journey to universal health cover

Monday June 25 2018

nurse, universal healthcare

A nurse attends to patients at a health centre in Kitgum, northern Uganda. PHOTO | MORGAN MBABAZI | NATION 

By DICTA ASIIMWE
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Uganda has increased its allocation to the health sector from Ush1.8 trillion ($470.6 million) in the 2017/18 financial year to Ush2.3 trillion ($595.6 million), apparently in what some see as an a response to last year’s backlash from the donor community when the government reduced the nominal value of Ministry of Health’s funding by Ush6 billion ($1.5 million).

Officials at the ministry say the increased allocation is intended to start the country on a journey to universal healthcare and reduce dependence on donor funding.

Donors, who provide an annual average of 50 per cent of Uganda’s health budget, were not pleased when the government reduced funding to health last year, with some saying their funding was being taken for granted.

But for the 2018/19 financial year, Dr Sarah Byakika, the acting planning commissioner in the Ministry of Health, said the increased allocation will among other things target universal heath coverage, recruit community health workers and cover recurrent expenditures at Kawempe and Kiruddu hospitals.

The two previously used funding from Mulago, the national referral hospital, which is currently under reconstruction and not taking in patients.

The ministry will also get extra funds for the national blood bank. Last year, there was a nationwide blood shortage when the US stopped funding blood collection activities.

Ms Byakika says that this time round, government has provided Ush19 billion ($4.9 million) for blood collection services.

Money is also being provided to avert the perennial intern strikes and for the drafting of insurance regulations. The drafting of the regulations is in preparation for the national health insurance law.

The national insurance law has been in the making for the past 11 years, but Dr Byakika says it will definitely be passed this year.

If the government can get the majority of Ugandans to contribute towards a national insurance scheme, it would reduce poverty.

Dr Dalanyo Dovlo the African director for health systems and services cluster at WHO, says Uganda is one of the countries that last year made a commitment in Zimbabwe to deliver universal health coverage for its population.