The Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, has told Parliament of an upsurge in malaria cases in five sub-regions across the country that has claimed lives.
“We are having an upsurge in malaria and some people might be experiencing what we call black water fever which is killing many children,” Aceng said, without revealing the number of fatalities.
The affected sub-regions include Karamoja, Acholi, Lango, Bukedea and Busoga.
She made this revelation during the plenary sitting of Wednesday, 06 July 2022 chaired by Speaker Anita Among,
Aceng was responding to the report of the health committee on the state of health service delivery in selected regions of Busoga, Elgon, Bukedi, Ankole and Buganda.
In the report, the committee observed a stock out of anti-malarial drugs which Aceng said was justified by the rampant malaria upsurge. “It is because of the upsurge that we have channelled medicines to the affected regions,” she said.
The Chairperson of the Committee on Health, Dr Charles Ayume, said the stockouts were observed in all health facilities his committee visited and that patients were forced to purchase from private suppliers at costs that many could not afford.
“Some facilities reported being unable to receive anti-malarial in the last two delivery cycles, this meant adults have to go and buy antimalarials from private facilities hence presenting pressure on household incomes,” said Ayume.
He called for an increase in the budget for the National Medical Stores to mitigate such shortages.
He also asked the Ministry of Health and National Medical Stores to prioritise anti-malarial in health facilities cognisant that malaria remains the leading cause of mortality and morbidity across all age groups in Uganda.
Legislators urged the government to make use of established local scientists such as those behind Covidex, an approved local remedy against COVID-19 to manufacture local anti-malaria drugs.
“We have scientists in this country who have even come up with innovations. We should recommend the new scientists to make antimalarials,” said Hon. Solomon Silwany (NRM, Bukooli County Central).
Hon. Silwany (R) proposed that the many scientists in the country should be encouraged to manufacture antimalarials
Bukonjo County West MP, Godfrey Katusabe, singled out Prof. Patrick Ogwang, the scientist behind Covidex, as one the government could engage to manufacture antimalarials.
“The innovation and output of Prof. Ogwang is internationally recognised, it would be unwise as a country not to support him,” said Katusabe.
Relatedly the report also revealed that most health centres visited had issues with medical equipment ranging from incompatibilities with power, lack of spare parts, missing parts and negligence.
“In the health, facilities visited, we noted that whenever equipment broke down, it took a long period of time for action to be taken to either repair, decommission or replace the equipment. We also observed gross negligence with regard to storage and utilization of medical equipment,” said Ayume
At Tororo Hospital, a newly installed X-ray machine was non-operational for two years because of power fluctuations, caused by a lack of a power regulator that would otherwise protect the machine, read the report.
The committee recommended that the budget for regional equipment workshops be increased from the current Shs2.7 billion to Shs10 billion annually to enable more equipment to be maintained regularly.
The committee findings also revealed a widespread blood shortage which Tororo district woman MP, Sarah Opendi said was responsible for a number of deaths in her district.
“There is rampant blood shortage and many children have lost lives, Imagine a regional referral hospital lacks blood and refers patients to a district hospital in Mbale,” Opendi said.
She called for increased funding to Uganda Blood Transfusion to widen its blood collection activities.