Prioritise other emergencies too

Wednesday April 29 2020

Mr Steven Musoke, a member of the village health team, transports an expectant mother on a bicycle ambulance in Budondo Sub-county in Jinja District. FILE PHOTO

Watching news of a woman identified as Rehema Abubakar recently was hurting. According to the video, she succumbed to ulcers and fever.

The family is stranded with the corpse in fear as to whether they will get clearance to bury their loved one. The president’s directives on the fight against Covid-19 have registered success in mitigating the spread of the disease.

However, the directive that emergency cases of pregnant women should get clearance from RDCs and RCCs will lead to the loss of more lives the Rehemas. Although the president said there should people present in the office of the RDC, directing the RDCs and RCCs as the only officers to clear emergency cases is inadequate.

What will happen when the emergency cases supersede the capacity of the said offices? The prevalence of malaria, water borne diseases, pregnant mothers, and pneumonia, among other killer diseases, cause high mortality rates. This calls for a multipronged approach in sorting the different cases while following standard operation procedures.

It is important to worry about Covid-19 but also stipulate ways of overcoming other diseases that more often than not claim lives of the masses. The death of Rehema, a resident of Kawempe, is a microcosm of the plight of many Ugandans, who lose their lives because of lack of the means to reach the hospital.

According to the World Health Organisation, Uganda’s burden of disease is dominated by communicable diseases, which account for over 50 per cent of morbidity and mortality. Malaria, HIV/Aids, TB, and respiratory, diarrheal, epidemic-prone and vaccine-preventable diseases are the leading causes of death.


The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention ranks neonatal disorders, HIV/Aids and malaria at the top of the ten diseases that cause death in Uganda. As such, instituting measures that would succor people, who may not necessarily be pregnant or suffering from Covid-19, would save lives that would otherwise succumb to other ailments.

Judging from the plight that Rehema suffered, the urban poor as well as people living in villages will remain in a state of quagmire wrought by other diseases if the policy of complete lockdown against the use of private cars or boda bodas in emergencies is not revised with respect to other diseases apart from the pandemic.

Dealing with obstetric emergencies is a life and death matter as there many complications likely to occur. How quick will the RDC’s office respond to these emergencies?

What is happening is that women are giving birth on roads in an attempt to walk to hospital. Dealing with emergencies cannot be compatible with bureaucracy of calling the RDC’s office.

While the government can be credited for containing the Covid-19 through the vigorous enforcement of lockdown, it is pertinent to consider emergency with the urgency it requires in order to save lives.

Arnold Wangwe,