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Hon Harriet Baldwin, Minister for Africa (DFID), Uganda's High Commissioner, H.E. Julius Moto, Dr Diana Atwine & Moses Mulimira. Courtesy photo

UK Summit Shines Global Spotlight on Uganda’s Healthcare Systems

The summit took place at the British Medical Journal Headquarters as well as an event hosted at the House of Lords
posted onJanuary 6, 2017
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By Dennis Katungi LONDON.

An international summit held in London last week focussed on improving the health of communities in Uganda and East Africa in general. The conference brought together political, health and private sector leaders to find ways and options of supporting the East African governments. Emphasis was on quick response to current and future health threats, as well as achieving greater investment in Africa’s healthcare systems. The summit took place at the British Medical Journal Headquarters as well as an event hosted at the House of Lords on 26th /27th April 2019.

The top events were convened and supported by the Uganda UK Health Alliance, British Medical Association (BMA), British Medical Journal (BMJ), NHS Health Education England, and sponsors Morningside Pharmaceuticals. Delegations from the UK and East African governments, National Health Service leaders, policy makers and representatives from African ministries of health came together with international healthcare experts, investors, solution providers, and business leaders. It was a remarkable pool of expertise under one roof, seeking solutions to intractable health issues in Africa. Moses Mulimira, UK Lead for the Uganda UK Health Alliance, and the Health Summit event organizing committee chair said:  “It will be impossible to achieve national and international goals, including sustainable development goals, without greater and more effective investment in health systems and services. “While more resources are needed, governments are also looking for ways of doing more with existing resources. They are seeking innovative ways of harnessing and focusing the energies of global health communities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector.

This summit brought together significant individuals from East Africa and the UK to share ideas. “We looked at ways that some of the skills and expertise of the UK National Health Service can support Uganda and other East African healthcare systems, and of course this works both ways, so the United Kingdom can learn from some of the amazing work taking place in Africa”. Moses Mulimira, a Ugandan pursuing a Ph.D. at Oxford University, concurrently runs the Alliance. Dr. Diana Atwine, Permanent secretary of Uganda’s Ministry of Health and Co-Chair of the Alliance highlighted efforts in strengthening the Uganda UK Health cooperation. She said that “ongoing efforts will undoubtedly lead to more collaboration where nurses and doctors from the UK work in Uganda, help with technology transfer and best practice, as well avail opportunities for healthcare professionals from Uganda to train in the UK”.

She also encouraged professional volunteering in both directions, as well as better coordinated joint-health initiatives. Lord Nigel Crisp the Co-Chair of Nursing Now - said that Nurses and midwives make up the largest part of the health workforce in East Africa and that some of the greatest improvements in health will come from enabling them to work to their full potential. They are the health professionals closest to the community and with support from technology and medical staff can reach and help more people than ever before. One success story from the past year saw Everton Football Club in the UK send a representative to attend the UK East Africa Health Improvement Summit in Uganda, as well as pledging the Club’s support for 5 years to the West Nile refugee operation in Uganda. Uganda Red Cross and a local team Onduparaka FC are local partners. The summit also looked to private sector businesses to provide innovative solutions and investment in E Africa’s healthcare systems.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) led an event in the House of Lords, chaired by Lord Dolar Popat the UK Trade Envoy to Uganda, where business leaders looked at how promoting private sector engagement and UK exports can strengthen bilateral trade across the East African markets. Lord Popat said: “As the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Uganda, it is my mission to strengthen Britain’s post-Brexit trade and investment with a continent that hosts some of the fastest growing economies in the world. “Uganda and UK have what it takes to be partners on the road ahead in world-class health care. We share a tremendous history, a common working language, and a lot of affection for each other’s countries.

We have to work together so that we can help each other to have a brighter future ahead.” Investment in Pharmaceuticals was highlighted as an area of interest after a local market analysis from Kerry Conway of DFID invests in Africa and Nevin Bradford of Cipla Limited highlighted the opportunities. Another healthcare priority area of the summit was to explore how governments are supporting major health issues, particularly Malaria.  A session co-hosted by Ugandan parliamentarian Hon Moses Balyeku and  Jeremy Lefroy MP, Chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases,  aimed to raise awareness of malaria and neglected tropical diseases amongst UK parliamentarians.

These efforts are intended to provide the basis for the UK Government to provide sustainable funding for the prevention and treatment of these diseases. The summit also looked for fresh ways to galvanize investment in Research and Development including malaria vaccines and treatment drugs, new generations of insecticides and genetic modifications, which would be designed to eliminate malaria-carrying mosquitoes or prevent transmission.

Mr Dennis Katungi is the Director, Communications & Media Relations, Uganda Media Centre 

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