Why Ugandans snubbed govt donation appeal

Thursday July 29 2021

Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja. PHOTO/ FILE

By Elizabeth Kamurungi

An appeal by Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja,   to Ugandans and corporate  entities to donate to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic has been met with low enthusiasm.
Last year, when President Museveni rallied for support towards the fight against the pandemic, many contributed massively to raise Shs29.6b.
Last week, Ms Nabbanja said government did not have enough resources to buy vaccines to inoculate the targeted 21.9 million Ugandans and called upon the public to donate to the cause.

 “You may be aware that this pandemic, most of the countries which are on top of it, have vaccinated their population. Our government is struggling to ensure that we buy as many vaccines as possible so that people get herd immunity,” the prime minister said.
However, there has been low response towards the cause.
Mr Emmanuel Katongole, the  Covid-19 Response Fund chair, attributed the low response to the strain the pandemic has had on businesses and the economy. 
 “People are overstretched. They have not been working for one and a half years. Companies are not in full operation. It is a challenge but people are coming up,” Mr Katongole said.

But Ms Cissy Kagaba, the executive director of Anti-corruption Coalition Uganda, said the population has lost trust in government due to lack of accountability for  the donations made at the onset of the pandemic. “ You cannot expect people to contribute again yet the other donations are still not very clear. There is lack of transparency on how these funds were used,” Ms Kagaba said.

She added: “Government is telling people to donate yet it has money to buy cars for MPs. If you are buying non priority things right now, how do you expect the public to come out and give you money?” 
An analysis by this newspaper showed that buying cars for each of the 529 MPs at Shs200m would cost Shs105b or $29.8 million, which is enough to buy 7.5m doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines at the official $4 per dose rate or 4.3m doses at $7 per dose including the syringes and disposal bags.

Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, the spokesperson for the National Unity Platform party, said the mismatch in government’s priorities is partly to blame for the low donations. 
“Government should be executing its mandate. I think our problem is not money, it is bad prioritisation. Look at how much is  going to security, you deploy trillions there, we are not at war. The war we are at currently is a health war,” Mr Ssenyonyi said.

 Government has not yet spent any money on purchasing vaccines as it  has been using donated jabs to inoculate about 1 million Ugandans. 
 However, in the national budget passed last month, Shs560b was allocated to purchase vaccines. As the country struggles to find a way forward after a second lockdown, experts have tagged a return to normalcy to vaccination.