There is an Acholi saying about breaking the water pot right at your door step.
When I saw the news about Uganda charging 65 USD (240,500ugx) for individuals to test for COVID 19 that saying came back to mind. Previously Uganda was recognized as one of the countries that were ahead of the fight against the pandemic but recent events beg to differ.
Our health care system seems to be going back to default settings. The most patronising thing about the fee is that it is to be paid by truck drivers at the different points of entry and Ugandans returning from abroad, among others.
Ugandans have been demanding to be repatriated since beginning of the lockdown and many of them have not even been working in the countries they were in. And yet this country expects them to facilitate their travel expenses, quarantine costs and now COVID 19 testing. It is evident that this country is doing anything to frustrate the efforts of citizens returning back home.
Likewise it is mandatory for Ugandan truck drivers to test as they are coming into the country. It’s honestly enraging to see that truck drivers that have literally been risking their lives to hold the economy together in this lockdown now have to incur an extra cost. A cost which will in turn translate into increased prices of the very goods they are importing and hence be paid by the average Ugandan.
What happened to flattening the curve and being ahead of the situation? At this point you’d expect the ministry of health to be moving towards mass testing especially with the increasing community infection. Charging truck drivers and returnees for COVID 19 testing will force people into the lines of forgery, use of porous boarders, among others to avoid testing and this will only place a bigger burden on the population.
The minister of health Hon. Jane Ruth Aceng assured us that the country was a head of this COVID 19 fight. The National treasury, donor agencies and individuals also gave towards the COVID 19 response so that ordinary Ugandans would not have to carry the financial burden of the disease.
The ministry has not given accountability on how the funds that were donated and the loans the country received in the name of this pandemic have been used thus far. The same ministry has also been wastefully using resources by demanding that Ugandan truck drivers test each time they are entering the country as opposed to the biweekly (14days) testing that other East African countries have been following.
In my opinion a testing fee of 240,500ugx is unrealistic in a country with no stipulated and functional minimum wage. Most Ugandans are already victims of an exploitative economy, taxation and now have to incur this additional financial burden.
Also, for a country that has been in lockdown since March with many of it’s citizens living from hand to mouth I find such a high cost for testing unrealistic.
I know countries like Kenya are also charging for COVID 19 testing but you can’t compare 1,000ksh (34,000ugx / 9.24USD) to 240,500ugx/65USD.
This is a leap in the wrong direction as far as improving our health care system and universal health coverage is concerned. In fact it is a shame that at a time when the ministry of health would be holding high the flag for health care in Uganda and ensuring that this emergency set up continues even beyond COVID 19, they are instead choosing to exploit the wanainchi.
Recent events even show that the ministry of health and government of uganda as a whole are slowly withdrawing from the COVID 19 response. In July the Minister of health herself was criticized for not wearing a mask in public and ignoring SOP’s in a gathering. Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the ministry of Health senior public relations officer also stated that Mulago National referral hospital would only be collecting samples for VIP’s like MPs and ministers.
Ugandans have for the longest time been speculating that COVID 19 is merely a business venture and their is no scientific basis to it. Such acts by the ministry and adding an outrageous fee only confirm these speculations.
It breaks my heart to see Uganda treat health care as a privilege only the rich should enjoy as opposed to a basic human right. We seem to quickly forget that much as poorer populations are disproportionately affected by this pandemic, everyone’s safety depends on a collective responsibility.
If we are still trying to flatten the curve, stop community infection, fight importation of infection by returnees and move back to the pre-pandemic era, the ministry of health needs to revise this thoughtless exploitation of tax paying citizens.
What are your thoughts on this 240,500ugx COVID 19 testing fee? Please share your thoughts with me in the comment section
Images were sourced from the internet.
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