Gov’t asked to provide universal health care

Monday, 1 June 2020 - 11:45am

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Government has been urged to start thinking of providing universal healthcare for every Ugandan to deal with pandemics.

Speaking on Monday during a zoom discussion organized by the Makerere University Human Rights and Peace Centre [Huripec] Prof. John Jean Barya, the Makerere University law don said leaving health insurance in the hands of private companies is unwise because they are only motivated by profit.

“We cannot run away from public health insurance. People must have health services any time they need them. This is different from private health insurance because for them, it’s strictly business,” Barya said.

He added that however providing universal health care doesn’t mean outlawing the private schemes. “Give those who can afford them a choice,” Barya said.

Dr Olive Kobusingye, a senior researcher at the Makerere University School of Public Health says the government must start paying more attention to people’s health than the military. 

“What do we have this entire defence for when we don’t know what we are even immunizing our children with? We need to rethink the role of the military if we want a healthy population. People are dying because they don’t have basic malarial medicines and testing kits and we are spending billions on the military. We need to rethink this,” Kobusingye said.

She added that for as long as the people don’t demand that their leaders use the same healthcare system, it will continue to be ill funded.

“We have been way too laid back and expected way too much. A health system for the poor is also poor,” Kobusingye said.

She observed that the government deployed hundreds of troops on the streets to ostensibly enforce COVID-19 restrictions not because it poses a danger to the people but to rather enforce the leadership of President Museveni.

Yusuf Serunkuma Kajura, a researcher at the Makerere University Institute of Social Research said that the problems of Uganda are all political. He said until the population demands more from their government, they will continue getting a raw deal.


“States don’t want to account to anybody; social services are demanded not given on a silver platter. Because we have all these indirect taxes, people don’t demand to know how the government uses their taxes,” Yusuf said. He added that in countries that are still developing like Uganda, there is a need for people paying direct taxes to awaken their political consciousness.

“We have had plenty of legislation that has thrown us in inertia hence having a docile public,” Serunkuma said.

Dr Zahara Nampewo, the Executive Director of Huripec said Ugandans must start demanding accountability from their leaders. She said it is no longer tenable to just look on as government borrows billions of shillings on their behalf and they can’t know let alone ask what it is going to be used for.

“We want to build a citizenry that will ask questions,” Nampewo said.

Meanwhile, Prof. Barya said, it’s wrong to give people part of their contribution to NSSF to ameliorate some of the financial problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He said crises of this nature must be a responsibility of the state.

“The idea of raiding NSSF is wrong because the virus is not going away tomorrow. If you deplete it because of this, you will be more vulnerable in case of losing a job, becoming incapacitated or old age,” Barya said.

There has been a stiff debate on whether NSSF should pay up to 20 percent of the money that contributors have with it to deal with the consequences of the coronavirus. The proposal came at a time when parliament was considering amending the NSSF Act to allow for midterm success to savers’ savings.