By Grace Kenganzi
“During the lockdown, the media kept us abreast of everything that was happening“
An independent, free and pluralistic press is important in the attainment of human rights. These three tenets are the foundation on which the vision of World Press Freedom Day was built in 1991 on May 3rd. This year is the 30th anniversary of this day, which presents a good time to analyse whether our press is truly free. Typing the last statement, I can hear several people say, “of course it is not!” Metaphorically speaking. We have seen the trouble members of the press have faced, especially in the last months, as they did their work. A quick search of the hashtag #JournalismIsNotACrime highlights the different struggles journalists have faced. From intimidation and imprisonment to face-offs with the police, there is no doubt that freedom has not yet come.
Perhaps if we recognised the value of the press, we would be more inclined to protecting their freedoms. The most recent Internet shutdown gave us a fresh appreciation for mainstream media since we got most of our updates from TV, radio and newspapers.
During the lockdown, the media kept us abreast of everything that was happening. With an increasing number of citizen journalists, we found out about women giving birth on their way to hospital, sexual and gender based violence happening in homes, and sex workers being denied access to information on COVID-19, among other issues. These reports, among other things, made it possible for civil society organisations like CEHURD to make a case to the COVID-19 National Taskforce, and these issues were addressed. For starters, restrictions on transport were relaxed to allow pregnant women access health services. CEHURD staff also got permission to move and therefore provide legal support to different people.
Investigative journalists are always exposing injustices in the health system. In some instances, the public is not even aware that these are injustices. For example, some people pay for medicines and services when they are supposed to access them for free. In 2019, an investigative story exposed a drug racket that was selling malaria drugs yet these were supposed to be free. After that story, more people exposed health care facilities and providers who were selling drugs where they shouldn’t have.
There are many more examples of the crucial part that the media plays in advancing the right to health. It is therefore a resourceful partner in advocacy and action research, besides providing information to the masses. Sure, there are some unscrupulous journalists who have made the public skeptical about media reports. But these should not deter us from recognising the good and honest work many more are putting in, to ensure that we are informed, educated and even entertained, at the cost of their lives in some cases.
Ms Kenganzi is a Communications Manager at Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD).
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday 27th April 2021
GOVERNMENT DEFIES COURT ORDER TO INCREASE FUNDING TO MATERNAL HEALTH IN THE NATIONAL BUDGET
Kampala – Uganda. Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) has filed a case with the Constitutional Court, seeking to hold the Attorney General and other government officials in contempt of Court. Last year, the Court ordered the Government to prioritize and provide sufficient funds in the national budget for maternal healthcare in order to meet its constitutional obligation of upholding the rights of women, and fulfil their reproductive rights. This order was given in the landmark judgment of the Petition 16 maternal health case (CEHURD and 3 others vs. Attorney General [Constitutional Petition No. 16 of 2011]).
However, this year’s health sector budget allocation is estimated to decline by 9.3 per cent (UGX 2,781.17 Billion in FY2020/21 to UGX 2,522.88 Billion in FY2021/22). The reduction in funding to the health sector as projected in the national budget framework paper FY 2021/22 is therefore in contempt of the Court, and the Government should be sanctioned accordingly.
CEHURD is also demanding for a vote for maternal health under the health sector. A vote would require the Ministry of Health to budget and account for funds to maternal health, independent of the general health sector budget. This would make it easier to track how much money is spent on maternal health, and therefore provide the only clear way the judicial pronouncements and orders will be achieved.
Part of a wider problem
Adequate funding to maternal health would go a long way in reducing the number of women who die while trying to bring life into the world.
Uganda suffers a persistently high maternal mortality ratio (MMR) currently at 336 per 100,000 live births which translates into 16 women dying every day during childbirth majorly because of lack of basic maternal health commodities like gloves, syringes, blood, and medicines etc., which enable women to give birth safely. This is worsened by low political will to equip and sufficiently fund healthcare facilities, which sees two midwives working on more than 30 expectant mothers at a go. There is also no access to emergency obstetric care which has left women to die in very painful, heinous and cruel ways. The causes of these preventable deaths can be traced to insufficient funding in health facilities.
This case is therefore an effort to ensure that Government complies with the Court order and prioritizes the health care system. This is through increased budgetary allocation and creation of a maternal health vote under the health sector.
The state has an obligation to uphold women’s rights and fulfill their reproductive rights, and this should be reflected in the next financial year (2021/2022). We call upon the Parliament to stand with the people of Uganda to prioritize health and allocate more resources to the health sector.
For more information contact: email@example.com and copy in firstname.lastname@example.org or call our toll free line 0800300044.
By Esther Kamede –Center for Health, Human Rights and Development
World health day | 7 April 2021
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark and painful reminder that nobody is safe until everyone is safe”.
The Pandemic Century!
On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic. Just weeks later, we went from sharing memes and jokes about the virus to actually experiencing a life-altering year that globally turned our lives upside down. On 1st April, announcements came in of a 14day nationwide lockdown. We now went to staying and working from home, pulling our children out of school, getting scared of dying, business loss and very steep falls in income.
More than a year later, the virus continues to plague the world with new deadly variants in sight, novel viruses should never be taken lightly; this one is highly infectious yet often causes no symptoms for some time. It also deepened vulnerabilities and inequalities including cracks in our health systems especially the unpreparedness and response in dealing with a pandemic. At this point the sign of hope are vaccines!-the key to overcoming the pandemic. Vaccines stimulate our immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting and preventing us from disease. This is what makes vaccines and immunization such powerful medicine and such an essential public good for all. Governments are responsible for managing public health crisis in line with human rights and fundamental freedoms. When it comes to vaccination, this involves ensuring that everyone, without discrimination, is offered a fair opportunity to receive a safe and effective vaccine.
Uganda receives its Vaccines!
On 5th March, 2021 Uganda received 864,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, from the global COVAX facility-that aims to ensure even low income countries have access to the vaccines. On 10th March launched its mass COVID-19 vaccination program, joining a host of countries in Africa to initiate the inoculation. Each phase is planned to cover 20 per cent of the population – approximately 4.38 million people, 20% is not enough, 60% would suffice this means low income countries may not realize equitable access to Vaccines. A number of determinants come into play for example the cost of the vaccines, buying vaccines for 90% of Uganda’s population would plunge the economy into borrowing and further debt .The Auditor General warned that by 2022, the country’s debt would be unsustainable. This cost would also deplete the 32.8%bn budget allocated to the health sector for the entire fiscal year, also the surplus doses from high income economies could be enough to inoculate 90% of the population.
The world has two economies!
We have two economies, the wealthy economies-high income and the poor economies-low income, this partially explains the inequities in vaccine distribution. The low income countries cannot afford vaccine equity. For example Aljazeera reported rich countries have bought more than half of the world coronavirus vaccines and are estimated to have received 90% of the delivered vaccines in sharp contrast, 9 out of ten people in poor nations may not get vaccinated. Africa has secured a meagre 300m doses of the vaccine for its population of 1.3bn people!
This World Health Day, the pandemic is still with us and its devastating impact. We hold the hope that as we fight to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic together, we are better prepared for future generations and learn from the incredible human ability to drive change and innovation even in a pandemic. We take home that ensuring universal and equitable access to safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines and medicine is building a fairer and healthier world together.