Self medication escalating cases of blindness in Uganda

By Phiona Namutebi

Eye Experts have asked the government to allocate more eye health centers in rural areas in a movement of preventing the spread of eye infections.

While speaking to capital radio, Mercy Ndinyo an Optometrist at Lapaire Glasses Clinic in Kamwokya says, some people in villages get infected with eye diseases but run to traditional doctors for treatment due to lack of eye health facilities.

Ndinyo adds that this is so dangerous because it worsens the state of the eyes. She urges government to consider providing more health centers in villages.

Eye Specialists also singled out eye self-medication as one of the major causes of blindness to people in Uganda.

Ndinyo explains that when people get eye problems they opt to self medicate mostly with eye drops from pharmacies and use them without even going for check-up.

However, Ndinyo advises people to always go for eye check-ups even when they don’t have any eye problem so that they are given guidelines by an eye expert on how they can protect their eyes from getting infections.

Uganda recieves first batch of Covaxx, vaccination starts 10th March

By Gloria Nakiyimba

Uganda has received its initial batch of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines and is set to roll out vaccination on 10th March 2021.

A consignment of 864,000 doses of the vaccines arrived aboard Emirates airline on Friday afternoon and received by the minister for Health Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng.

She was accompanied by a World Health organization country representative, UNICEF representative, heads of foreign missions and members of the vaccine committee.

“Today is a great day and a special day for us here in Uganda as we receive the first consignment of COVID -19 vaccines from the serum institute of India under the Covaxx facility,” said Minister Aceng.

Minister Aceng reveals that for the vaccine to arrive here, Uganda had to complete some requirements.

One of them was to ensure that we have a national vaccine deployment plant which was completed and approved.

The second was to sign an indemnity agreement with the serum institute of India which was done and approved.

The third was to ensure that the National drug Authority approves the vaccine for use in Uganda and it is duly approved., and Uganda can therefore use the vaccine to vaccinate the community

Speaking after receiving the vaccine at Entebbe Airport, Minister for Health Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng noted that the” vaccine will be used to vaccinate persons providing essential services and who are at high risk of exposure in the line of duty”.

These include Health workers in Public, Private not for profit and private facilities, security personnel; UPDF, Police and Prisons, and teachers in the public and private facilities.

“We will use our tested strength of decentralized health services to deliver the vaccines to the target populations in record time” said Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng.

Vaccines have been allocated to the districts and the national medical stores will deliver to the districts on schedule.

I expect all the districts to start vaccination following the launch on the 10th March at Mulago national referral hospital starting with health workers.

These will be followed by the vaccination of teachers which will take place between the 16th and 19th March 2021.

Government is targeting to vaccinate 22 million people including the refugee population.

ISER asks government to refocus on fight against COVID-19

By Deo Wasswa

Non-governmental organisation named Initiative for social and economic rights is asking the government to re-focus on the fight against the spread of COVID-19 since elections will be ending soon.

While addressing journalists the organization said, since the campaign started in November, Ugandans are confused about the fight against COVID-19.

They say that the national task force on COVID- 19 used to give updates to the nation stopped three months back.

Allan Kembabazi, programs manager at ISER remarked during the launch of the twelve questions to the government in regard to COVID-19 vaccine.

Among the questions were, what is the government’s progress to have vaccines in the country? Will the vaccine work here? What is the country’s COVID-19 vaccine plan? How much will people be paying for each dose? What is the plan to get the country sufficient? The plan for vaccine distribution among others.

The organisation also wants to know the which category will be vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is obtained.

German government donates two ventilator machines to Uganda

By Gloria Nakiyimba

The German government through Malteser International a worldwide relief agency has donated two ventilator machines worth more than 300 million shillings to boost Uganda’s fight against COVID-19.

One ventilator has been handed over by the German Ambassador to Uganda Mathius Schauer to Dr. Andrew Ssekitooleko the Executive director for Lubaga hospital.

A second ventilator has been given to Mulago hospital which was represented by Dr. Annet Alenyo at a function that was held at Lubaga hospital on Monday.

Dr. Ssekitooleko says the ventilator will improve the hospital’s capacity in treating COVID-19 patients in severe condition.

“The challenge for us arose when some patients presented with severe symptoms. Some of them needed ventilators or some sort of high level support. And yet we could not admit them to our ICU, because when we do that we’d close our ICU. So we reached out to our partners Malteser who came back to us with the positive news of a donation of a ventilator” said Dr.Ssekitooleko.

German Ambassador H.E Shauer says the ventilators will strengthen the hospital’s role as one the cornerstones in Uganda’s COVID response team.

“Malteser has trained staff on how to effectively contain the virus, and has helped implement the screening and sorting system which is essential to prevent hospital infection among risk groups and staff” said ambassador Shauer.

According to Dr. Ssekitooleko, the other challenge was in-transfer of patients, where the patients needed to be transferred to Mulago and other government designated isolation centres but lacked ventilators for the ambulance.

Malteser International in the past donated Personal Protection Equipment-PPE to Lubaga hospital and helped to set up a COVID-19 unit in the hospital which Dr. Ssekitooleko says has gone a long way in containing the disease.

The ventilator will also be used to support the training of emergency care and staff too.

“Our hospital is a training center for EMS so this ventilator is given to support our training program” he said.

Seven months ago Uganda registered the first COVID-19 first case, and today the number of confirmed cases in the country has since passed the mark of 10,000.

Education and health ministers sued over phased school reopening

By Sania Babirye

The first lady Janet Kataha Museveni has been sued in the high court in her capacity as minister of education and sports over the reopening of schools for candidate classes due 15th of this month.

Mrs Museveni together with the health minister Jane Ruth Acheng by the Executive Director of Human Rights Defenders Association Uganda (HURIDA -Ug) Tugume Gideon.

Tugume wants court to issue an order blocking the reopening of schools until government pays school fees and requirements for all finalists at all levels of education.

In documents filed in the high court, the petitioner, further asks court to compel the ministry of health take responsibility for any disease related to COVID-19 if any student is affected before reopening the Schools.

He claims that by the time government closed schools in March this year, the country had not registered any COVID-19 positive cases yet since the the country is crippling with a over 9000 COVID-19 positive cases with death and that reopening schools now is poor planning, illegal and discriminatory since most parents businesses such as bars, open markets, events , music, health clubs among others which are their main source of employment are still not yet opened which is likely to make many candidates miss out school.

The petitioner also claims that they tried to engage the two ministers but in vain forcing them to seek legal redress and that reopening of some schools with such a big number of children is against COVID-19 ministerial guidelines issued to the public and likely to put school going children exposed to COVID-19.

These want Court to compel government to financially support parents affected by COVID-19 lock down by paying school fees , registration fees and requirements for all students in both private and government institutions.

The two ministers have been summoned to file their defenses within 15 days before the case is set for hearing by court..

Marie Stopes launches new improved Life Guard condoms

By Deo Wasswa

The Ministry of Health in partnership with Marie Stopes Uganda has today announced the return of the new, improved and National Drug Authority -certified Life Guard condoms to address the nationwide shortage of the socially marketed brands.

Dr Charles Olaro, the Director in charge of Curative Services and the Focal Point for Family Planning, Ministry of Health says that the new Life Guard condoms manufactured by Thai Nippon Rubber industries (TNR) a UNFPA pre-qualified condom manufacturer meet the highest international safety standards.

The estimated annual condom need for socially marketed and commercial condoms in Uganda is 20 million condoms. Lifeguard contributes about 43% of this market.

Dr Olaro reiterates that the withdrawal of Life Guard condoms last year left a huge gap that could potentially undermine the Ministry of Health’s efforts to curb the spread of HIV, in line with the Presidential Fast-track Initiative on ending HIV and AIDS in Uganda by 2030.

Dr. Carole Sekimpi, the Country Director of Marie Stopes Uganda notes: “Condoms play a vital role in preventing unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. We are committed to providing products of the highest quality. We have strict quality controls in place and have a World Health Organization pre-qualified laboratory as our quality assurance/quality control partner to ensure that this product meets the strictest national and international standards.”

Man sues government over failure to fully recall defective batches of life guard condoms

By Sania Babirye

A Ugandan citizen who claims to have contracted HIV/AIDS after using a defective life guard condom has sued government for failing to remove the said defective condoms on the market.

In a petition filed in the high court civil division, Joseph Kintu claims that the said condoms are still in circulation since several other batches were not recalled from bars and retail shops because NDA and Marie Stopes’ mandates are limited to pharmacies and drug stores.

Kintu claims that 30% of the defective condoms are still being sold and many Ugandans continue to contract sexually transmitted diseases on a daily basis .

He further claims that people with hearing and sight impairments have also complained that government did not communicate to them in form of sign language to alert them of the defective condoms on market as such communication was published in either News papers or placed on Radio and TV stations yet many of them are still using the said condoms and have since tested positive to STDs.

Kintu wants court to declare that the failure by government and concerned parties to fully recall the defective batches of Lifeguard condoms on the market a violation of the right to health as people continue to contract sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies.

Court is yet to summon government for defense.

Kawempe hospital receives washing and drying machines for new born intensive care

By Alice Lubwama

Plan international Uganda has donated a washing and drying machine worth 9 million shillings to the newborn intensive care unit of Kawempe regional hospital.

Handing over the equipment to the director of this hospital Dr Nehemiah Katusiime the head of programs at plan International Uganda Greg Lavender said the donation is made to reaffirm the organization commitment towards working with the Government in strengthening the health service delivery to reduce child mortality.

“We urge the facility to utilize the equipment very well to meet the goal of saving the lives of the new-born children in Uganda”. Greg said.

The Neonatal specialist at Kawempe hospital Dr Margaret Nakaketo says the machine will help them to reduce on the infections among the premature and sick babies, since mothers have been mixing baby clothes with other dirty linen.

“Infection control is paramount in the management of babies, so this machine will help us to wash and dry the clothes any time and the babies will always have clean linen.” added Nakaketo

Nakaketo also intimated that infections have been a big problem for the unit where mothers come in with all sorts of clothes which are dirty to carry in their babies but with the machine, they will be able to buy their own linen and give it to every mother.

In Uganda, 14 out of every 100 babies are born preterm and complications of premature account for about 29% of neonatal deaths.

The sustainable development goals call for the end of preventable maternal new-born and child deaths by the year 2030, but neonatal mortality remains a big problem in Uganda contributing up to 45% of overall deaths among children less than five years of age.

Ministry of health warns public to be mindful of the quality of masks

By Alice Lubwama

The Ministry of health has issued guidelines for making masks stressing that masks made out of cotton clothing has the ability to protect one from infections by 95%.

Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng says that while Government is in the process of distributing free masks, Ugandans are free to buy masks from other sources but must ensure that they meet the set standards.

The minister says that those intending to make their own masks must ensure that they have good quality materials especially cotton and filters.

Dr Aceng has also advised the public to make sure that masks are washed and ironed before being used the next day

She has also guided on when a person should wear a mask.

AirQo pushes for clean air for better health

By Edwin Muhumuza

Ugandans have been urged to desist from activities that contribute to poor air quality.

This is was said at the commemoration of the 14th annual Air Quality Awareness Week 2020.

The week-long celebrations were held under the theme “Better Air, Better Health,” with the aim of raising awareness on air quality and its effect on health.

Their concerns come amid the deteriorating air quality which is not only imposing a health burden on City residents but is also making the city unattractive for visitors and investments.

Most of these activities include burning rubbish and idling engine in traffic with calls now to adopting cleaner cooking initiatives, servicing cars in time, and minimizing driving and embracing carpooling and non-motorized transportation during peak pollution hours.

Among the participants were the U.S. Mission Kampala, AirQo of Makerere University, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), and the National Environment Management
Authority (NEMA)

The ,KCCA Executive Director,Engineering Andrew Kitaka noted that in addition to the 25 air quality monitors deployed within the city, KCCA had put in place interventions such as paving of roads to reduce dust with now over 210Km of roads completed and many more currently under construction. He further added that they were ensuring traffic control measures like signalization of junctions to improve traffic , the enforcement of the tobacco control act to reduce smoking in public and also working with industries on cleaner production.

The Project Lead at AirQo Prof. Engineer Bainomugisha,said that the first step in being
able to improve air quality is being able to measure it,however, reference-grade monitors are extremely expensive, and as a result, limits the scale of air quality monitoring a situation that requires more funding.

Finally in her submission,the Senior Environmental Inspector, NEMA, Jenifer Kutesakwe,noted that the proposed interventions by other stakeholders were a step in the right direction and only if human activities are moderated,while involving members of the public, then the goal to achieve clean air would be quickly attainable.

In recent years, Kampala has been cited to be among the highly polluted cities in Africa with air pollution levels over six times higher than the World Health Organizations air quality guidelines.

This was courtesy of, the AirQo project from the College of Computing and Information Sciences, Makerere University which designed and deployed over eighty (80) low-cost air quality monitors across Uganda built locally and uniquely designed to withstand the environmental and physical conditions such as dust and extreme weather conditions.

However, the recent analysis carried out by AirQo and NEMA on the effects of restriction on movement during the COVID-19 lock down, there was a drop in air pollution by up to 40% for Particulate Matter and more than 60% for Nitrogen Oxide(NO2) .This was largely a result of slow-down in traffic, commercial and other pollution generating activities.