Govt lists priority plans after successful Ebola fight

Ministry of Health officials led by Health Minister Dr Ruth Aceng (centre),  Ebola fight partners and survivors at the function to declare Uganda Ebola-free in Mubende District yesterday. PHOTO/DAN WANDERA. 

What you need to know:

The Health ministry says the priority interventions that will be partly supported by the unspent Ebola funds include supporting research in vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, ecological studies and Ebola virus disease risk mapping.

Government, through the Ministry of Health, has outlined the next priority interventions plans after Uganda was declared Ebola-free yesterday.

The Health minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, said the priority interventions that will be partly supported by the unspent Ebola funds include supporting research in vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, ecological studies and Ebola virus disease risk mapping that will help in management of future outbreaks.

“Government will also focus on infection prevention and control in private and public health facilities guided by the Ministry of Health. We want to carry out a countrywide assessment and find out where we are in regard to infection, prevention and control. We don’t want to get health workers infected with any potentially dangerous virus or bacteria,” she said.

Among other priority areas is supporting the Ebola virus disease capacity building within the East African region where the training will be undertaken in the constructed Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) facilities within the East African region, with support from partners and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Here, the government has targeted the use of the Ebola facility constructed at Mulago National Referral Hospital, which is a semi-permanent and capacity building for all health workers countrywide. 

Govt plans to establish multi-disciplinary emergency clinical teams to support the entire country in case of any outbreak.

These will support the implementation of a recovery plan to ensure better coordination and integration of lessons learnt into the existing plans and frameworks.

Government will also strengthen the laboratory system, especially the field laboratories through the introduction of mobile field vans for Ebola.

“The introduction of the field vans will ensure programmes are not displaced. In Mubende, we had to displace the entire HIV clinic at the hospital. All partners will sit to approve the plan before implementation,” Dr Aceng said.

In recognition of all the efforts, the government, with support from the Korean Federation, will construct an epidemics operation centre for continuous monitoring in Mubende District.

“Uganda should be able to build capacity to deal with the disease burden. Uganda can’t do this alone. We want everyone to continue supporting us in our endeavour,” Dr Diana Atwine, the Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary, said.

US Ambassador Natalie Brown said: “Uganda has proved a leader in global health security over the past 25 years with impressive capacity to prevent, detect and respond to disease outbreaks, including the fighting of Covid-19 and has been instrumental in fighting the Ebola Sudan virus.”

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said without vaccines and therapeutics, the Ebola Sudan virus proved to be one of the most challenging outbreaks but Uganda stayed the course and continuously fine-tuned its response.

“As the outbreak reached major cities including Kampala and Jinja, it cast a dark shadow over the country well into 2023. But this win starts off the year on a note of great hope for Africa,” he said.

Government also commended partners and stakeholders, who helped fight the disease.

Some of the partners who have been instrumental in the recent Ebola fight include the WHO, Unicef, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Baylor Uganda, Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF), CDC-Africa, AFENET, Uganda Red Cross and USAID.

MSF, a lead partner, invested €700,000 (Shs2.8b) to construct six Ebola isolation facilities and about €3.1 million (Shs12b) for the entire intervention, said it is ready to partner with the government in future interventions.

Mr Jason Rizzo, the MSF emergency coordinator for Uganda, in a brief interview with this paper, said part of the MSF intervention was in the area of design, technical guidance and construction of the six Ebola isolation facilities.

“We were also involved in management of both the suspected and confirmed cases, and support in the treatment of more than 80 percent of the suspected and confirmed cases,” he said.

Government has tasked all the partners to give accountability for their respective interventions, clear their respective interventions and ensure all the fund balances are handed to the government for future plans.

What they say...

Matia Kasaija, Finance minister.

It is something that is wonderful.  If Ebola had continued lingering here, definitively the tourism sector was going to suffer. You know people are scientifically ignorant. When they hear that Ebola is in Uganda, they fear to come to Uganda. Damage mainly is on the tourism sector.

Dr Munir Safieldin, Unicef representative.

It does have an immediate bearing on development. When a country is experiencing an outbreak of a serious infectious disease like Ebola, its ability to attract tourists and investors could be jeopardised. The country’s international borders will also be at risk of travel restrictions.

Dr Joyce Kadocu, state minister for Education.

As a country, we are happy because of the freedom we are going to enjoy. It also means that opening of schools for first term will not be interrupted.  Last year, we were forced to close schools earlier to help contain infections in schools and ensure our leaners are safe.

Thadeus Musoke Nagenda, Kacita chaiperson.

For the traders, it is a great opportunity for them to operate normally. The lockdown and curfews had affected businesses. Unfortunately, there is no special programme that has been put in place to support traders from the affected districts so that they are re-organised.


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