Uganda MPs advocate for better targeted malaria reduction efforts during UAM photo exhibition
With photographs of Ugandans stricken with malaria as a backdrop, a Uganda MP speaking on behalf of the Parliamentary Forum on Malaria called for the establishment of a "Uganda Malaria Commission," during an event on August 13 in the Parliament foyer. Modeled after the Uganda AIDS Commission, the Malaria Commission, if established, would receive its own vote in Parliament and its own budgetary line in upcoming budget negotiations, according to Forum Chairperson Hon. Moses Balyeku, MP.
More than 30 members of Parliament attended the United Against Malaria (UAM) photo exhibition launch in the Uganda Parliament, organized by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Communication Programs (JHU.CCP) through its Voices program. The event aimed to raise awareness and advocate for increased funding for malaria, as the disease is still the leading cause of death in Uganda.
“We are committing genocide by not making a decision to eliminate malaria,” said the Speaker of the Uganda Parliament Hon. Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, adding that the investments required now to eliminate malaria will mean fewer funds spent later. “If we do away with malaria, the expense talked about will go. We the House are fully committed 100% to fighting malaria,” the Speaker said.
All Parliamentarians in attendance signed an advocacy pledge, agreeing to take personal initiative to fight malaria. Many vowed to increase education about LLINs in their communities, others suggested they would advocate for increased IRS spraying, while some promised to advocate for more spending on health and malaria in particular and increased awareness and visibility about the disease.
“70,000 to 100,000 children below five years die every year because of malaria…,” said Ministry of Health’s Commissioner of Community Health Services, Dr. Anthony Mbonye, urging Parliamentarians to increase health funding to approximately US$10 million for malaria prevention and treatment. “We need an integrated approach to reduce the burden of malaria,” he said.
Throughout the lobby, photographs depicted the current state of health systems and facilities in the country, followed by the contributions from government and private sector organizations in addressing malaria through an integrated approach using LLINs, IRS, and case management using rapid diagnostic tests and ACTs.
The lobby was abuzz with the debate on what could be done to help reduce the morbidity and mortality caused by malaria in the country.
“These photos tell us we have work to do,” stated the Hon. Rose Nyakikongoro, who is the Vice Chairman on the Parliamentary Forum on Malaria. “We see people sharing beds, sleeping on the ground, we are overwhelming the hospitals. The country is overburdened, so we need to work hard to reduce the disease,” she concluded.
Approximately 8.8% of government expenditure in Uganda is allocated towards health—well below the 15% that Uganda and other African Union countries agreed to provide in the 2001 Abuja Declaration, Ken Mulondo of Voices Uganda pointed out to the crowd. In comparison, bordering Rwanda has increased health expenditure to 23.7%. Other countries that have met and exceeded the 15% target include Liberia, Zambia, Malawi, Madagascar, and Togo.
The photo exhibition ran throughout the week. All photos with accompanying captions have been published in the New Vision newspaper to help raise public awareness.