Activists protest Shs3.5b Health budget reduction

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KAMPALA. Government has slashed budget allocations to the Ministry of Health from last financial year’s Shs1.827.26 trillion to Shs1.823.82 trillion amid protests from health activists.
This means that the overall sector share of the Budget will reduce to 6.2 per cent, down from last year’s 8.3 per cent.
The 6.2 per cent (Shs35b) budget cut is way below the Abuja Declaration target that mandates all member states to allocate at least 15 per cent of their national budgets towards the health sector.
Only Shs911.2b of the total Health sector budget, translating into 51 per cent, will be financed internally while Shs889b, translating into 49 per cent, will be secured from external donors.

Finance minister Mathias Kasaija said while reading the budget yesterday that priority will be given to the elimination of drug stock-outs, rehabilitation of health units and general hospitals, maternal health, increased sensitisation and awareness.
Subsequent to the budget cuts, Dr Sarah Opendi, the State minister of Health for General Duties, said the much awaited National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and recruitment of community health extension workers (CHEWs) remain some of the unfunded priorities.
“Other key unfunded priorities include the equipment of regional referral hospitals because these cannot provide quality healthcare services without equipment and also the renovation of some of them, salary increment for health workers as well as accommodation,” Dr Opendi told Saturday Monitor.
She said although there are funds which have been allocated to increase the staffing level of health workers, which is currently at 71 per cent by two per cent, “we would have wished to have it increased to 100 per cent”.

On the other hand, Dr Opendi, explained that the health promotion and disease prevention as well as primary healthcare promotion have received improved funding in the current budget to reduce the demand for drugs and avert drug stock-outs.
“Funding for the lower health centres IV, III, II and general hospitals has been doubled…and we are still on course as far as the implementation of the National Ambulance Services (NAS) is concerned,” she added.
Mr Moses Talibita, a legal officer at Uganda National Health Consumers’ Organisation (UNHCO), a non-government organisation, said the reduction, however, minimal considering the recurrent problem of utility bills and drug stock-outs in health centres, means the problems will continue.

“The problems have become recurrent and of course other increments will go to administrative costs. All the time health financing has become the biggest nuisance. All MPs are buying ambulances for their constituencies, because health is the biggest problem that brings them in Parliament,” Mr Talibita said.
Similarly, Mr Denis Kibira, the executive director of the Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development(HEPS-Uganda),a health rights NGO, noted that it is unfortunate that government has persistently failed to fulfil its commitments to increase the health budget.
“We need to find ways of improving the financing of the health sector,” Mr Kibira said.

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