June 14, 2013

Budget: Health Activists Disappointed

Health activists have expressed disappointment with the 2013/2014 budget pronouncements for the health sector.

Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka on Thursday presented the budget estimates for the 2013/2014 financial year with a big percentage going to roads and education sectors. Out of the total budget of 13.16 trillion shillings, Kiwanuka allocated close to 2.4 trillion shillings to roads and transport sector, while 1.8 trillion shillings went to education.

Nakibuuka Musisi of Centre for Health and Human Rights development stated that the Budget does not prioritize the most important issues facing Ugandans. She expresses disappointment that it contains massive budget increases for State House and for Defense while health investments that literally mean the difference between life and death for millions of Ugandans have been underfunded.

Musisi says the economic growth described by President Museveni in his June 8 State of the Nation address is virtually meaningless when communities cannot reliably obtain essential health care in facilities that lack the staff, medicines, and equipment needed to save lives.

Minister Kiwanuka in her budget speech stated that the reduction in morbidity and mortality from the major causes of ill-health and premature death and reduction of disparities in the provision of health services is a major focus next year.

Dr Twa Twa Mutwalante, the Member of Parliament for Iki-Iki and member of the health committee in Parliament, welcomed government’s pronouncement to develop and implement a comprehensive Strategy for Malaria eradication to build on current efforts of prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

However, he says the other details were not very exciting considering it did not tackle issues such as maternal mortality reduction, remuneration of health workers and HIV/AIDS. He suggests that the budget should be revised.

Ibi Florence, the Kaberamaido Woman MP thinks the budget speech was not serious right from the State of the Nation address and she did not have high expectations. She is convinced that as long as the nurses never get a pay rise, then mothers will run away from health centres.

The Finance Minister announced a continued improvement in health infrastructure by rehabilitating and equipping National and Referral Hospitals and Health Centres. Others proposals include recruitment of key health care personnel to ensure adequate staffing, especially to increase access to quality maternal and child health care and providing staff housing for health workers with special attention on under-served areas.

The budget also mentioned formulating an appropriate legal and regulatory framework for the establishment of the national health insurance scheme and accelerating the ongoing campaign to prevent and control communicable and non-communicable diseases through immunization, awareness campaigns and provision of equipment.

The 2013/2014 budget also indicated equipping key health facilities such as Uganda Heart Institute, Uganda Cancer Institute and Uganda Blood Transfusion Services among others, and partnering with the private sector to establish facilities for highly specialized treatment.

Even with these announcements the health coalition organisations fault government for proposing new regressive taxes in what they called a misguided attempt to fill a revenue gap triggered by aid suspension in the wake of massive theft of donor funding.

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