Former US President William J. Clinton arrived in the country on Friday as part of a campaign to end diarrheal deaths among Ugandan children by increasing access to the most effective treatment – zinc and Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS).
Mr Clinton was last in Uganda in March 1998 when he was US President. He arrived at Entebbe International Airport at 10.30am on Friday, accompanied by his daughter, Ms Chelsea Clinton. The duo then visited planted trees at the Building Tomorrow Academy in Matugga.
His visit is expected to initiate the implementation of new steps to rapidly increase the use of Oral Rehydration Solutions in both public and private health channels.
The new efforts in Uganda come on the heels of a growing global commitment to eradicating child deaths to diarrhoea. It is estimated that 8, 500 child deaths will be prevented each year if Uganda’s goal of increasing coverage of ORS to 80 per cent and zinc to 40 per cent by 2015 is achieved, as outlined in the national Child Survival Strategy.
An estimated 14,000 children under the age of five die of diarrhea each year in Uganda. Zinc and ORS are able to prevent over 90 per cent of diarrhea-related deaths, but less than 5 per cent of children are currently using the complete treatment. Given the high effectiveness and affordability of zinc and ORS, increasing their use is one of the key pillars in Uganda’s extraordinary effort to reduce diarrhea and child mortality.
The former US president will be joined by President Museveni, senior health ministry officials, UN Health agencies, representatives of leading non-governmental organizations, and business leaders at National Medical Store in this drive.
Treatment of diarrhoea is an essential component of the comprehensive national effort to reduce diarrhea mortality, which also involves efforts to enhance hygiene; provide clean water; and introduce the rotavirus vaccine.
The Ministry of Health, in pursuit of the fourth Millennium Development Goal to reduce child mortality, has made progress in expanding access to essential medicines for children.
Amongst other interventions, the Ministry and partners have implemented Integrated Community Case Management (ICCM), increasing access to medicines for diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria for children at the community level.
National Medical Stores has also introduced ‘last-mile’ delivery, delivering drugs directly to all health centres. Compared to other, more expensive and complex treatments zinc and ORS are affordable and easy to scale.
The Copenhagen consensus, a project that ranks global welfare priorities, rated it as one of the top buys of social impact. It also ranks among the most cost effective health investments when considering cost-per-life-saved.