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Cross-border movements, refugee influx escalate NTDs in Uganda

A refugee from South Sudan transports food. The number of entrants has tremendously decreased as a ray of hope for peace shines over the young nation South Sudan (FILE PHOTO)

MWO – The cross-border movements and the continuous refugee influx for the neighbouring countries according to the health ministry have widely hampered efforts made by Uganda towards the elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).

According to Dr Edridah Muheki, the Assistant Commissioner Health Services in the Vector Control Division under the Health ministry said cases of Sleeping sickness that is almost being eliminated, were presented among refugees who had come from South Sudan.

“This year we registered only five cases of Sleeping Sickness, however, two cases that were chronic in nature, came from South Sudanese refugees,” she said.

Muheki said the ministry adopted mass treatment for other NTDs like Bilharzia which is attributed to poor sanitation mainly among fishing communities.

She, however, said the drugs used are mainly donated to school going children, calling for funds to cater for the adults.

The above notwithstanding, Muheki said the Division still suffers low staffing levels saying whereas they are meant to have 14 senior officers, they only have three. She said they also experience donor fatigue and little domestic funds.

She made the above remarks during the commissioning an office block at the Vector Control Division of the Health Ministry along Buganda road on Friday.

The building was constructed with support from the Carter Centre, as part of efforts to scale up interventions against Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)

Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, commended the Carter Centre for supporting the NTDs project but also collaborating with the country to eliminate the Guinea Worm in Uganda.

Rugunda hailed the Vector Control Division for creating a platform to leverage universal health coverage, saying the country is advocating for a disease-free and productive population.

“It is gratifying that Uganda is leading in the elimination of NTDs in the African region. I know partners have played a big role in this and I applaud you for being passionate,” Rugunda said.

On the reflecting on the Global instability, Rugunda said although Uganda is hosting refugees from the DRC and South Sudan, these countries are also afflicted by similar diseases (NTDs) and therefore Uganda cannot win the battle of a disease-free population if our countries are lagging behind.

“Whereas Uganda is already taking care of these refugees’ health and wellbeing, some of the partners supporting Uganda are the same that support programmes in these two countries.

He said samples for the neighbouring countries are analysed at the Carter Centre laboratory in Uganda.

Ambassador Mary Peters, the chief executive Officer of the Carter Centre, commended Uganda for adopting a nationwide policy of elimination River Blindness, saying it is because of this that close to 1.2million are no longer at risk of the disease.

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