Uganda: The Silver Lining of the ‘Ebola’ Outbreak

By Siki Kigongo


On July 29, the Government of Uganda confirmed the Ebola hemorrhagic fever had resurfaced in western Uganda, with a large number of cases reported in Kibaale district. The knee-jerk reaction would have been to panic, as this killer disease that had claimed many lives before had returned. However, this was not the case, as the nation witnessed the government spring into action.

The first Ebola virus outbreak occurred in Uganda 12 years ago when it claimed the lives of at least 170 people in the north of the country in 2000. Its last attack in 2007 was said to have brought to the fore the best and worst of Uganda’s health sector. The rare hemorrhagic disease, named after a small river in DR Congo, killed 37 people in western Uganda in 2007.

Most health workers who handled Ebola patients also succumbed to it. The most noticeable victim was Dr. Matthew Lukwiya the Medical Superintendent of Lacor Hospital who was felled by the killer disease as he tried to save hundreds of Ebola patients who were under his care at Lacor Hospital in 2000.

He was later awarded a posthumous Class One Crested Crane Medal for appreciation of hard work in the field of leadership and services by President Yoweri Museveni.

During one of the worst health scares Uganda has endured, it seems almost unattainable to find a silver lining, but it would be impossible to deny the government’s rapid response to the situation in 2012. Whereas it once took three months to positively identify the disease, with samples being sent to countries such as South Africa and America; this year laboratory investigations were conducted at the Uganda Virus Research Institute in Entebbe yielding results in a matter of days. This alone shows the developments within Uganda’s health sector.

The Government was quick to respond to the problem and the Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Amama Mbabazi convened an inter-ministerial task force, chaired by the Minister of Health Dr. Christine Ondoa, to facilitate and coordinate the outbreak response. Furthermore, the government continued to seek international help and work with partners such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), U. S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and other Health Development Partners to control the outbreak.

Medical experts from Ministry of Health (MoH), WHO and CDC were dispatched to the affected areas within the first week alone to support the response plan. All the necessary supplies were distributed by the National Medical Stores. Isolation centers were erected in several areas especially in the main referral hospitals i.e. Mulago and Kagadi in a precautionary effort by the government to stop the spread of the killer disease that is highly contagious.

The way the Ministry of Health worked alongside its partners is not only commendable, but exemplary. The ministry has gone the extra mile to contain the epidemic within its own borders and extend its ministry to the Congo which neighbors Uganda.

The Government dispatched medical teams to DR Congo on August 19, in an attempt to help contain the recent Ebola outbreak. This was vital because it is believed it originated from the consumption of monkey meat. In countries such as DR Congo, and western Uganda, monkey meat is considered to be a delicacy, and improperly cooked meat or infected meat has been blamed for the outbreak.

Not a day went by that one would turn on the news and not be updated about the virus. The news was riddled with constant updates from the number of victims, to the remedial measures issued by the Ministry of Health.

When Ebola was confirmed on July 29, President Yoweri Museveni showed his sensitivity and concern when he issued a statement the following day urging the nation to remain calm warning the nation and the rest of the world of the deadly disease. In his address, he spoke of preventative measures the public had to take.

The Ministry of Health also distributed Ebola factsheets in local newspapers as health notice to the general public educating them on the signs and symptoms, how it is spread and how it can be prevented. The way that the situation was handled by the Ministry of Health, showed a sense of urgency and decisiveness on their part.

The Writer is a Graduate Student of International Media and Communications Studies from the University of Nottingham.


Posted by on Aug 28 2012. Filed under African News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Leave a Reply