Mr President, our front line soldiers have no guns

Thursday June 24 2021

Innocent Atuhe

By Innocent Atuhe

Dear Mr President, I must alert you that our troops on the front line fighting Covid-19 have no guns and bullets (Personal Protective Equipment - PPE). This means, the enemy (Covid-19) will annihilate them sooner than later. 
Shortage of personal protective equipment is endangering health and it is because of this that World Health Organisation (WHO) is calling on industry and governments to increase manufacturing by 40 per cent to meet rising global demand.
Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding. 

Since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, prices have surged. Surgical masks have seen a six fold increase, N95 respirators have trebled and gowns have doubled. Suppliers can take months to deliver and market manipulation is widespread, with stocks frequently sold to the highest bidder.
To meet rising global demand, WHO estimates that industry must increase manufacturing by 40 per cent.
Governments should develop incentives for industry to ramp up production. This includes easing restrictions and providing incentives to manufacturers on the export and distribution of PPEs and other medical supplies. 

I have also heard that health workers and interns who have tested positive but have no symptoms are asked to remain working due to shortage of frontline staff. This means they continue spreading the infection to non-covid-19 patients in their care. The Ministry of Health should investigate this to confirm its validity and act quickly to address it if found true.
With regard to PPEs, the country needs to see Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) help now more than ever before. We know CSOs can adjust their budgets to support procurement of PPEs for government and private health facilities. We ask more NGOs to support government. 
Can we learn lessons from South Sudan? To ensure far reaching access to PPE across South Sudan, over 14 million PPE were procured and supplied by World Health Organization and partners. We ought to be better than South Sudan in the least. The well synchronized coordination and collaboration among key partners in the sector of supply chain management provided room for resources optimization and better performance. It also proved to be an important driver for promoting streamlined allocation, prioritization and distribution of PPE.
I request the WHO Representative for Uganda to rally partners to learn from South Sudan and provide necessary support in ensuring that health workers in Uganda have adequate PPEs against Covid-19 and other infections.

We have so far lost many health workers to this monster. Without PPEs, health workers may begin dodging duty and abandoning Covid-19 patients at a critical hour of need.
Ensuring adequate personal protective equipment at all times is vital to prevent healthcare workers infection from a large influx of Covid-19 patients. To reduce excess illness and death from epidemic-prone diseases such as Covid-19, government must prioritise PPE for health workers and stop paying lip service. 

Despite the fear of becoming infected and infecting others, healthcare workers go to health facilities showing remarkable resilience and professional dedication. Improvement in healthcare personnel and patient safety in health facilities contributes to WHO’s strategic goal of ‘One billion more people better protected from health emergencies’.

Mr President, as Ssebalwanyi and battle hardened General, you know very well the importance of keeping morale of the front line soldiers. Rally your commanders to do more. Health workers are doing a lot to fight Covid-19. Let government do more too to protect them and their families by providing PPEs.


Mr Innocent Atuhe is a researcher and a PanAfrican,