Apaa locals hold protests over closed health centre

Ms Stella Alanyo, a resident of Apaa, speaks during a meeting with the district leaders on March 29, 2023. PHOTO/MICHAEL OJOK

What you need to know:

  • The residents say they are unable to access medical care despite government efforts to avail the drugs.

Residents living in the contested Apaa land area are demanding their rights to proper healthcare.
This was after the officials allegedly withheld and stored medical supplies intended for the closed Apaa Health Centre II, following the numerous attacks.
The locals pitched camp at the district headquarters from Tuesday to Wednesday.
They were demanding accountability for the drugs and Primary Health Care fund that the central government has been sending since October 25, 2018.

National Medical Stores  (NMS) sent the drugs to Apaa Health Centre, but they are being stored at the district headquarters.
Mr Christopher Ocen, the Village Health Team (VHT)  supervisor, said health workers at Apaa relocated to Pabo Health Centre III after threats from the wildlife rangers.
As a result of lack of government health facilities, 36 children died, and five women died while delivering from their homes.
The statistics from Village Health Team coordinator indicate that 20 women suffered miscarriages as a result of lack of medical assistance during their pregnancies, and 39 adults died between 2018 and 2023.

Mr Ocen said the district health department has been using VHTs to supply drugs to the community and make routine health outreaches, which stopped since June 2022.
Mr Abraham Opiru, a resident of Apaa, said locals are forced to travel to either Pabo Town Council, which is about 68km from Apaa Trading Centre, and spending about Shs30,000 in transport or Otwee Health Centre III, which is bout 50km costing at least Shs40,000.

Mr Opiru said people are relying on clinics that have been established by practitioners whose qualifications are questionable.
Ms Fiona Aromo, an expectant mother, said due to the long distance, bad roads and associated expenses, antenatal care is hard to get.
“Recently, Museveni declared that we should freely stay in Apaa, meaning our rights to health services should be respected, how can we stay in Apaa without any health centre?” Aromo asked.
Ms Stella Alanyo, another expectant mother, questioned why the leaders would store drugs at the district and yet people are at the verge of dying in Apaa.

Ms Alanyo said if the government has declared that Apaa is in Adjumani, the drugs should then be directed to Adjumani so that services can reach them in time.  “We want health workers brought back to the health center, drugs stocked, we can’t continue dying. If Apaa is in Adjumani, let Adjumani begin serving us,” she said.
Mr Michael Lakony, the Amuru District chairperson, said the protest was uncalled for, adding that having written a letter seeking guidance from the Ministry of Health to operationalise the health centre, they were directed not to proceed with their operationalisation plan.

Mr Lakony in his letter said the district planned to redeploy health workers, who are operating from Pabo Health Centre III, back to the facility since the government has continued to send drugs and primary health care funds.
He said the matter of operationalisation of the health centre is with the Members of Parliament.

Mr Lakony, who claimed the protests could be politically motivated, said the absence of health services at the health centre is due to a breakdown in vehicles which were being used by the health workers and lack of funds.
Mr Stephen Odong Latek, the Amuru Resident District Commissioner, said the locals should instead raise concerns on the delay in instituting the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, adding that they would forward the concerns to higher authorities.

Mr Thomson Obong, the Amuru District Chief Administrative Officer, told our reporter that the district has been receiving drugs from National Medical Stores and Primary Health Care since 2018 until the last six months.
Mr Obong said they have drugs in store and funds but are awaiting a directive from the Ministry of Health on the operationalisation of the health centre.
“We have the drugs in our stores, and the money is the bank, I have directed the Chief Finance Officer not to release any money meant for Apaa until the Ministry gives us clear guidance,” he said.