Mr President, fear of job loss won’t drive up vaccination

Saturday September 25 2021
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Author, Asuman Bisiika. PHOTO/FILE

By Asuman Bisiika

On  Wednesday,  President Museveni delivered the long awaited address to the nation on the situation of the Covid-19 pandemic. He said schools would open in January next year after an intensive vaccination campaign with clear targets.

But in a typical Musevenisque act, he threatened to dismiss district local leaders who would not rally the population for the national vaccination campaign. “… I now direct with immediate effect that all RDCs, CAOs and DHOs must carry out intensive mobilisation for all eligible priority groups to go for vaccination. They should, in addition, ensure that no vaccines are wasted or left to expire. In any district where vaccines expire, the RDC, CAO and DHO will be dismissed,” he said.

And we say: Mr. Museveni Sir, the fear of job loss isn’t the best incentive for civil servants (who have reached levels where the threat of job loss would not be frighten them). In addition to the threat of dismissal (from service), government should work on the conditions under which district local governments administrations would run the intensive vaccination campaign. As usual, I will make some suggestions.

The best incentive or motivation for human beings is self-benefit (not fear or threat of sanction). In the 1980s, I worked as a Health Orderly in Kasese Town Council’s Department of Health. We were redundant save for the irregular hygiene and health inspections; which is why I could ‘maintain my relationship’ with the IO of the 75th Battalion of the NRA and teach at Railway Primary School (and later Base Camp Primary School).

But in spite of ‘my busy schedule’, I could not (and no one in the department dared to) miss the Vaccination Outreach Programme days. Why? Because a month’s allowances from the outreach programme was more than my monthly salary. In fact even the department’s elderly female office messenger also used join us on our outreach fieldwork. And need I say, even when she didn’t join us, our team leader always included her name on the payment tally sheet…

So, if we are to have a very effective vaccination campaign, government needs to appropriately facilitate the people involved in the campaign as a matter of incentive. Can this vaccination campaign rely on Village Health Teams (VHTs)  as focal people? I doubt. I would spend more money on the media than VHTs. Let me share my experience. 

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It is fairly known that I campaigned for the NRM presidential candidate in the last elections. During the campaigns, I came face to face with the challenge (actually folly) of organised structures for mobilisation.

In one of the districts where I had been invited, I suggested the use of Village Health Teams as our local contact persons for the campaign. The district campaign team thought that was a brilliant idea and they adopted it. I then asked the NRM-friendly district health officer (DHO) to provide us with the names of all VHTs in the district. Up to now, I have never received them.

We later learnt that the DHO’s VHT list did not correspond with the real persons on the Village Health Teams. Why? Because whenever there are allowances from this or that government programme, DHOs (become clever and) create new lists of Village Health Teams.

With this VHT sobering lesson, we resolved to use the ubiquitous bizindalo (megaphone broadcasts) and road activation (vehicles mounted with megaphones) for the campaign. These gave us the much needed visibility among the voters.

Alor, Papa Museveni, if’okeba (Lingala: So, Mzee Museveni, beware…). The failure of this vaccination campaign would be very disastrous to Ugandans. This campaign should be treated as having the last bullet in the middle of a gunfight. 

Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of the East African Flagpost. [email protected]
 

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