May 21, 2020

ABIGAIL ARIHO: Open Letter to President Museveni, Dr. Ruth Aceng


President Museveni and Health MInister Dr. Ruth Jane Aceng

Today makes it 60 days since the evening of Wednesday 18th March 2020 when the President started announcing measures to help the country manage and respond to the pandemic that the World Health Organization declared on 11th March 2020.

The President franked by yourself, a host of other ministers and technocrats would go on to announce several directives that eventually placed the population under a lockdown. The population listening to the president. Based on what was happening elsewhere in the country agreed and cooperated with the Measures from your Ministry and the Directives of the President.

This was against the backdrop that the measures and directives were uncomfortable, disruptive and most importantly were severely affecting people’s livelihoods. Despite all this, the population focused more on giving you room to manage and respond to the pandemic by sacrificing our livelihoods, with the hope that sooner than later, the country would be in a position to manage this pandemic.

To emphasize this, I think you recall how the public hunted down all the returnees from Dubai that you were looking for, helped to force them into isolation and testing.

Since then, we have watched you and the President updating the country how the situation is evolving. However, your updates continue to erode the trust and good will we accorded you since 18th March and we are now on the verge of withdrawing this goodwill. You have consistently focused on telling us the numbers of people you are testing and the positive cases you get. Nowhere in your tweets or addresses have we seen an update on the preparedness levels of the health sector.

We all know the state of our health sector and we thought that as you locked us up, you were to use this time to correct the mistakes that have been happening in the health sector. For instance, we expected you to periodically update us on the following

  1. State of Referral hospitals
  2. Staffing levels in all health centres
  3. State of ICUs in hospitals
  4. Training of health officials
  5. Level of coordination among others

In this update, we for instance expect you to let us know
a. How many ICUs have you added to the existing ones?
b. How many additional Ventilators and oxygen masks have acquired?
c. How many additional Doctors and other health care workers have you recruited?
d. How many additional hospital beds have you made available?
e. Any renovations carried out on hospitals and health centres

This is the information we require to build our confidence and trust that you have used the days you and the President locked us up well. However, all we hear from you is that you are tracing for contacts and the new truck driver cases found positive. Did you lock us up to only look for positive cases or you locked us up to prepare the health sector to handle cases?

Additionally, your updates on number of tests and positive cases found is casting doubt on the integrity of those numbers. Its increasingly becoming difficult to believe that only truck drivers are testing positive and there are no positive cases from the community testing. Yet we know that after testing driver are interacting with the communities.

We have seen videos of drivers being found in communities when their results are found positive. How come none of their contacts ends up positive? Are the test kits programmed to only test truck drivers? We had chosen to ignore some of these technicalities and focus on giving you goodwill to do your work.

We are however running out of patience since what you are doing is not giving us any hope. It is 3 days to when we expect the next address.

The other worrying trend has been on the Presidents focus on getting vehicles. We already knew that MoH is one of the government departments with the largest fleet of vehicles.

Without recognising this fact, the President has asked for more cars and we have seen them being given to him. However, the issue in our Health care management system is not the absence of cars. It is in the areas I have listed above. Actual health care and treatment, and no means of transportation.

A few days back we were told that 21 billion has so far been collected from donations, however we are not told how these donations have been used in strengthening the health care system. If we are to be motivated to give more, we need to appreciate the work done by the donations in so far. May be that way, we will hid to the call to donate more as the task force has requested.

To the President, and this we will elaborate more at some point, its demoralizing for us who are locked up to continue hearing how you and the MPs are sharing money on one hand, and calling up on Ugandans to donate on the other hand. But lets first focus on the health situation.

I Look forward to hearing more positive news about the capacity and strength of our health care system and not that truck drivers are being found positive. We appreciate that the virus will be here for long. We only need to know that now our health care system has been boasted to handle cases coming in, such that when we return to work, we are confident that in an event that one gets the virus, the sacrifice they made to be locked up will be paid back when they find prepared and equipped hospitals to provide them treatment.


Author: Abigail Ariho is a Ugandan citizen pondering on Post-COVID-19 under lockdown in Gayaza

1 thought on “ABIGAIL ARIHO: Open Letter to President Museveni, Dr. Ruth Aceng

  1. Thank you Abigail. You have asked the perfect questions. The government really has misplaced priorities when it comes to the health sector. Imagine on average the cars cost 150m which is a enough to do a great detail of renovations in a rural health center…

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