KAMPALA – Americans love a good celebration, and there are few celebrations better than the Fourth of July — America’s Independence Day.
Usually, it’s a day of parades, fireworks, and backyard barbecues. But in trying times, Americans remember that Independence Day is about much more than hot dogs and apple pie. And make no mistake, the past year has been a trying one.
George Floyd’s murder and subsequent protests demonstrated the distance America must still travel to achieve racial justice, despite recent progress.
The January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol made clear that we must defend democracy at home even as we support it abroad. And COVID-19 took the lives of more than 600,000 Americans, disrupted the economy, and turned everyone’s life upside down.
On this 245th anniversary of our independence, we remember that America’s democracy was hard earned and that the promise of liberty and justice has not yet been kept for all Americans. We also remember the victims of COVID-19 who will not be joining us at the barbecue, marching in a parade, or watching fireworks.
As I mark my first Fourth of July in Uganda, however, I am buoyed by the generosity of spirit reflected in the relationship between the United States and the Ugandan people. In my travels across the country, I have seen the impact our joint efforts have on the lives of ordinary Ugandans. By investing in Uganda’s most valuable resource — its people — we are improving health, strengthening civil society, promoting economic opportunity, and educating the next generation of leaders to build the institutions necessary to guarantee success and prosperity. I am confident that together, we will realize our goal of a Uganda where every child, woman, and man is able to achieve their full potential.
Nowhere is the spirit of partnership between our countries stronger than in our joint efforts to combat COVID-19. Since the pandemic’s outbreak, the U.S. Mission Uganda team has worked hand-in-hand with Ugandan health professionals to prevent, detect, and respond to COVID-19. U.S.-supported Field Epidemiology Training Program fellows have conducted more than 60 COVID-related activities from contact tracing to assessments of borders and health facilities across Uganda. We’ve contributed more than $68 million in COVID-19 specific funding, supporting Uganda’s vaccination program and more than 150 Ministry of Health positions in incident management, laboratory services, emergency medical services, as well as at the Uganda Virus Research Institute.
In response to the current COVID-19 wave, the United States is supporting surge hiring of nurses for urgent care needs at hospitals across Uganda and funding 16 additional surveillance epidemiologists so the Ministry of Health can more accurately track and respond to COVID’s spread.
Beyond this, the United States is providing urgently needed food and nutrition assistance, health care, and psychosocial support to refugee communities in Uganda hard hit by the pandemic.
As significant as this support is, we know more needs to be done. We also know that nobody is safe until we are all safe. That’s why President Biden has committed to ensuring that the United States will serve as the “arsenal of vaccines.” Globally, we’ve contributed $2 billion to the global COVAX vaccine fund, donated 80 million actual vaccine doses, and committed to purchasing 500 million more on behalf of developing countries. We are committed to ending the pandemic as quickly as possible.
So this Fourth of July, although our Independence Day celebrations will be muted, we take strength from the solidarity with our Ugandan partners and from the knowledge that together we will bring this pandemic to an end.
Natalie E. Brown is the U.S. Ambassador to Uganda