Disease outbreaks continue to ravage country

Sunday April 15 2012

By Agatha Ayebazibwe


At least five disease outbreaks have been reported in different parts of the country over the last three months as the National Disease Control Programme continues to grapple with poor funding to effectively carry out surveillance.

Cholera, meningitis, hepatitis B, measles, and nodding disease syndrome have hit the country yet funding to the sector remains low.
Cholera reported in the east and western districts last month has killed about 30 people and left 256 hospitalised while measles outbreak in the central districts has killed two children dead and 60 others are still admitted to various health centres.

Hepatitis B, which is the latest outbreak recorded in Teso, has so far killed two people while 17 people have been diagnosed with the infection in Kumi and Serere districts.

In Oyam and Anuru, where hepatitis B has also been reported, about 16 people have died of meningitis in the past three weeks. Some 358 cases have also been recorded.

While the Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary, Dr Asuman Lukwago, says the outbreaks are seasonal and due to poor sanitation, sources at the ministry indicate that the sector is financially constrained.
The source, that did not want to be named because they are not allowed to speak to the media, the National Disease Control Programme, which carries out surveillance activities, is poorly funded. As a result, disease outbreaks are not projected.

Little money
“The money given to this programme is very little yet surveillance needs a lot of research work as well as field operations to come up with preventive measures to minimise such cases,” the source said.
The source added: “Unless this is looked at immediately, the ministry will continue spending billions of shillings on treatment after the diseases have affected and killed people.”

When asked how much of the ministry’s budget goes to the surveillance and disease control programme, the ministry said they could not get the exact figure.

“Cholera outbreak in Mbale and nearby districts was as a result of interrupted water supply that forced people to consume contaminated water in River Manafwa while the onset of rains coupled with poor pit-latrine use accelerated the outbreak,” said Dr Lukwago.

On measles, the permanent secretary said the accumulation of the number of children who are not immunised led to the outbreak which was expected since some parents had failed to immunise their children.
Government allocated Shs650b to the sector in this financial year.