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WHO Director General visits Uganda to assess Ebola response

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Uganda Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng receives the World Health Organization (WHO) Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, with a trademark no-handshake greeting. Looking on is Dr Yonas Tegyn the WHO Country Representative to Uganda.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is in the country to assess Uganda’s response to the current Ebola outbreak in Kasese District, Western Uganda. 

Kasese is one of 127 Ugandan districts, located in western Uganda and 400km away from the capital, Kampala.

Dr. Tedros made a stopover in Uganda while on his way from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where he visited the Ebola hotspots, Butembo and Katwa. This is his third visit to Uganda since the Ebola outbreak was declared in August 2018 in DRC.

He was received by the Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng and her technical teams, Mrs Rosa Malango the UN Resident Representative, Dr Yonas Tegyn the WHO Country Representative to Uganda and Dr Lisa Nelson, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director in Uganda, yesterday at Protea Hotel in Entebbe at 7:00PM.

In his remarks, Dr. Tedros pledged continued support to Uganda to contain this outbreak. “From our side, I would like to pledge that we will continue mobilizing global and regional support to control this outbreak as soon as possible. It is not clean until the outbreak in DRC is finished”

Dr Tedros commented on the seemingly declining trends in Butembo and Katwa. He said, “There appears to be a decline in Butembo and Katwa areas. However, in my discussions with my colleagues, we agreed to be very careful with optimism but very cautious optimism because the Ebola situation in DRC has been very unpredictable with up and down trends.

He further said that Mabalako where the Ebola outbreak was first confirmed in August 2018 has once again become a hot bed of new infections.

“Mabalako is now the hottest place where cases actually came from to Uganda” Dr Tedros noted. 

Dr. Tedros explained that “I have accepted the assessment of the WHO Emergency Committee that although the Ebola outbreak in DRC is an emergency in the country and the region, it does not currently constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).”

He also revealed that in December 2018, WHO requested international pharmaceuticals giant, MERCK to produce more doses of the ‘Ebola-rVSV’ vaccine, to continue supporting the outbreak.

In her remarks, the Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng said that, the transition from a preparedness mode to a response mode was not difficult given that Ministry of Health and partners had invested heavily in ten months of preparations to handle any eventualities. However, she said, “The challenge is that we now have to again mobilize resources for the response phase.”

She appreciated the WHO for the support with the Ebola vaccines during the preparedness phase, where over 4,200 frontline health workers and other workers were vaccinated in Uganda.

“During this response phase, we have received a total of 3,400 doses of the vaccine. A donation of 400 doses from the DRC as a quick initial measure to kick start vaccination of contacts, frontline health workers and other workers who were not vaccinated, and an additional 3,000 doses sent in by WHO. All these arrived very timely and vaccinations commenced last Saturday, 15 June 2019 where over 20 contacts were vaccinated. Today, we expected to vaccinate over 70 people and the process will continue,” she said.   

Dr Tedros is expected to meet the President of Republic of Uganda H. E. Yoweri Museveni on Monday, 17th June 2019 for a bilateral on the current Ebola outbreak that has spilled over to Uganda.

Dr Aceng appreciated the efforts and contributions of all partners in Uganda towards the containment of the Ebola outbreak.

The UN resident Coordinator, Rosa Malango appreciated the political commitment of Government in responding to emergencies. “I have discussed with Dr. Yonas, and agreed to meet on Monday 17th June 2019, to once again analyze the gaps and identify where support is needed in terms of financial resources” she said.  

As of now, Uganda has no confirmed case of Ebola. Two suspect cases were under isolation in Bwera Ebola Treatment Unit as of Sunday 16th June. One of the suspect cases tested negative for Ebola and has been discharged, while results of the other suspect cases is pending.

The European Commission on 13th June 2019 announced an emergency funding of €3.5 million, of which €2.5 million is for Uganda and €1 million for South Sudan to strengthen rapid detection and reaction to Ebola cases. This is over and above the €17 million in EU funding for Ebola response since 2018 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and prevention and preparedness actions in Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi.

UNICEF, the UN Child Agency has provided over 5500 hand washing facilities to critical areas such as hospitals, schools and border entry points in 17 districts across Western Uganda. 

The Government of Ireland has also stepped in with a donation of two all-terrain 4*4s to improve the mobility and logistics by Ministry of Health workers.

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The Presidency

BUDGET: Kasaija to spend UGX982, 187 on every Ugandan in 2019/20

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Next year, in 2019/20, the government of Uganda plans to spend 23.8% more money than it has spent, this year financial year. According to a national budget read yesterday, by Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED) minister, Hon Matia Kasaija, Uganda will in 2019/20 spend UGX40.5 trillion, up from UGX32.7 trillion in 2018/19.

Given Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) population projections of 40 million and 41.2 million people for 2019 and 2020 respectively, that is an increase of 20.2% from UGX817,433 to UGX982,187.  

But where will he get this money from?

According to Kasaija, out of the UGX40.5 trillion, UGX20.9 trillion (51.6%) will be tax and non-tax revenue raised locally. As a result Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) must collect 25% more revenue- their targets have been raised from UGX16.4 trillion in 2018/19 to UGX20.45 trillion next financial year.

Hoima Substation, Hoima-Nkenda Transmission Line- UGXUGX3 trillion has been allocated to the energy and mineral development sector, UGX562 billion more than the UGX2.43 trillion allocated in 2018/19

KAsaija also expects to borrow UGX2.8 trillion (7%) from local financial markets. The finance minister also plans to borrow from external sources, as well as receive project support from Uganda’s foreign development partners, altogether, UGX9.4 trillion (15.9%).

He also expects general budget support of up to UGX675.2 billion (1.7%) and aid of up to UGX201.1 billion. 

Because of the heavy debt burden, domestic debt re-financing will account for UGX6.5 trillion or 15.9% of the resource envelope- this is not actual money though.

According to Kasaija, the stock of Government debt rose to UGX42.8 trillion (USD11.5 billion) as at end-December 2018, up by 15.1% from UGX37.2 billion (USD10.2 billion). Of this external debt constitutes is 66.5%- UGX28.4 trillion or USD7.7 billion.

How will the money be spent?

Thanks to a burgeoning debt and the attendant need to restructure, Uganda will spend UGX10.6 trillion on debt repayment.

Kasaija however insists that our debt, although high, it is still sustainable- at 41.8% of GDP in nominal terms and 31.7% of GDP in present value terms, as of December 2018. This is well below the threshold of 50% Debt to GDP ratio contained in the Charter for Fiscal Responsibility and the East African Community (EAC).

Part of the newly completed Soroti-Akisim-Moroto road in Karamoja. Government has allocated government has provided UGX1.67 trillion more money for roads, increasing by 35% the planned expenditure on roads to UGX6.46 trillion

Works and transport will take UGX6.46 trillion, while security will account for UGX3.62 trillion and education and sports UGX3.37 trillion. The government will spend UGX3.14 trillion on interest payments, UGX3 trillion on the energy and minerals sector, UGX2.62 trillion to health and UGX1.73 trillion to the Justice/Law and order sectors.

The accountability sector will be apportioned UGX1.54 trillion while local governments will get UGX1.25 trillion. The agriculture, animal industry and fisheries as well as water and environment sectors will each get UGX1.1 trillion. Others are: public administration (UGX979.1 billion), Public Sector Management (UGX857 billion), legislature (UGX687.8 billion) and Lands, Housing and Urban Development at UGX227 billion. Trade and industry will get UGX202.8 billion, social development UGX219.2billion, tourism will get UGX193.7 billion and Science, Technology and Innovation, UGX186 billion.

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