I am writing from a country called Uganda located in East Africa.
Uganda is slightly smaller than Britain in size with a population of 34 million people.
Just ten years ago, Uganda’s population was 24 million people but in only ten years, 10 more million people have been produced. Currently with an annual population increase of 3.4 per cent Uganda has the highest fertility rate in the world.
Unlike in Australia where citizens are living comfortable lives, most Ugandans are living in a nightmare where some of them live on one meal and some without food at all.
Over a half of the population is living on less than one US dollar per day. Currently 51 of the 90 districts in the country have been hit by drought and famine. In the last three weeks, the local media has reported that over fifteen people have died from hunger.
Although the government has tried to save the situation by sending food to the affected areas, it is not enough. World food programmes have come in to save the situation but so far few affected people have received food aid.
Shortage of food in the country and effects of global crunch has also led to corruption in most of the government institutions.
In just one week, 25 policemen have been arrested on orders of the country’s president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni for being corrupt, killing innocent people and extorting money from civilians.
That has led to many civilians wondering where one can seek security if those who are supposed to secure them have turned against them.
How I wish I lived in a safe country like Australia. No wonder, therefore, that three years ago, when a cricket team from Uganda came to Australia for international cricket engagement, two of its players vanished in Australia when it came to the time of returning to Uganda. Up to today, according to their relatives, they are living comfortably in Australia.
Then there’s the fight against HIV-AIDS. Following the death of 17 people living with HIV-AIDs in Uganda in the last month due to shortage of Aids drugs called ARVs, the Global Fund to fight AIDs, Tuberculosis and Malaria has run to Uganda’s rescue by providing funds to buy emergency drugs.
The Global Fund is a unique global public/private partnership dedicated to attracting and disbursing additional resources to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
The director of Uganda Aids management programme, Dr Zaianb Akol said, “Uganda has 1 million people living with HIV-AIDS. Of those, 240,000 are in need of drugs but we have been able to provide to only 140,000 due to lack of resources.”
Global fund suspended providing funds to Uganda two years ago due to mismanagement of the funds by government officials including ministers. However the government acted tough on the three ministers suspected to have misappropriated the funds and they were sued in courts of law for being corrupt.
That action, and the recent death of people living with HIV-AIDs due to lack of drugs softened Global Fund management.
In a statement it issued today, the Global fund said, “The fund is committed to financing essential health care programs in Uganda despite the international trends to reduce aid because of the ongoing economic recession.”
The release of the statement follows the visit of William Paton, the fund’s Director of Country Programs last week. It goes on to say that the organization will ensure continuous supply of anti-retroviral drugs and malaria prevention activities.
During his visit Mr. Paton announced that the Global Fund has disbursed 4.25 million dollars to the Ministry of Finance for critically needed ARVs.
This is the beginning of disbursements of new commitments worth up to 120 million dollars over 24 months, for AIDS and malaria.
William Paton said that Uganda has recovered from funds mismanagement scandal, demonstrating its leadership in responding to AIDS and to strengthening its health system over many years. He said the Global Fund appreciates Government’s ongoing efforts to recover funds which were misappropriated in the past and the prosecution of those responsible.
Uganda also has grants for malaria and tuberculosis. To respond to malaria, almost two million long-lasting bed nets have been distributed nation-wide. The new grant will provide 17.7 million bed nets over the next five years, which will provide cover for a high proportion of women and of children under five-years-old.