Maj Gen Julius Oketta, the disaster and relief coordinator in the Office of the Prime Minister has been nominated to join an Africa Union led humanitarian mission to combat the threat of the Ebola virus to the continent.
Maj Oketta will today join the Ethiopia-based Africa Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa( ASEOWA) that is spearheading an strategy code-named “Operation ASEOWA” in devising a strategy to combat the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa and is threatening East Africa.
“The deployment for the humanitarian response is set for the first week of September,” reads a brief from the AU-headquarters.
In an interview on Tuesday, Maj Gen Oketta revealed that his appointment was a testimony that the African Union was impressed by Uganda’s effective response to the 2000 Ebola epidemic that ravaged Northern Uganda- even as the region was suffering war-but was ably dealt with.
“Since then, the UPDF has excelled in managing several disasters. It is a civil-military response strategy. I will be linking up with different agencies to formalize an AU response to the crisis in West Africa,”Maj Oketta said.
The envisaged medical and military personnel will be deployed in Ebola-hit areas.
Prior to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the worst recorded outbreak was he 2000 epidemic in northern Uganda where over 425 people contracted the virus, mainly in the northern town of Gulu, with nearly half of the patients losing their lives.
More than 1,500 people have died since the outbreak started in Guinea mid this year. There are worries that the epidemic might spread to other countries on the continent if it is not tackled fast enough. Last month, the government announced heightened surveillance measures along Uganda’s border with DR Congo after it was confirmed that the neighboring country had suffered an Ebola outbreak.
Neighboring Kenya has also been classified as a high risk country, with heightened surveillance.
The Army MP was the regional reserve Forces Commander when the UPDF helped in combating the Ebola epidemic in Northern Uganda. He is currently putting up the National Emergency Coordination and Operations Centre, a disaster preparedness and management agency at the Prime Minister’s office.