By Amb. Henry Mayega
Like the rest of the world, Uganda has been, since last year, wrestling with fundamental and painful questions about managing the COVID-19 pandemic; yet the Yoweri Museveni administration has heroically stewarded us through the balancing act of taking the country through a general election earlier this year and simultaneously confronting the globe’s most virulent virus in recent times.
During the latest campaigns, our intrusive westerly lecturers and in tow, their recessing and recalcitrant opposition legatees, ignorantly accused this administration of using the pandemic to choreograph the general elections to its advantage yet that very precinct was simultaneously locking down despite their respective electioneering seasons!
They exasperatingly denigrated the administration’s limiting the size of political rallies to two hundred people yet in their home turf huge rallies ironically became super-spreaders of the pandemic!
That notwithstanding, the administration journeyed on and imposed measures that undoubtedly slowed both the infection and death rates.
Whereas those rates burgeoned alarmingly in several other countries, the administration attracted international accolades for limiting the gravity of this pervasive global enigma.
Currently, and despite the slow pace at which the pharmaceutical world is dispensing vaccines to the south, Uganda has vaccinated 1,087,152 of its citizens.
That vaccination program wasn’t without resistance though from people with a cognitive deficit and exhibiting signs of being voodoo-ridden; they ineptly labelled the endeavour as a means by the administration to intoxicate citizens!
The administration also launched a fundraising drive to augment government efforts in combating the pandemic and mitigate its after-effects.
But even before the funds left the government coffers, Uganda’s venerated opposition suggested that they had been pilfered.
President Museveni was at the forefront in ensuring that not a single penny is stolen; he simultaneously deployed against that possibility and the progress registered is a sequel of those very efforts despite some accountability issues raised by the auditor general.
Additionally, the President has personally addressed numerous press conferences to offer leadership and engender confidence in the fight against the pandemic.
Those conferences couched in simple language away from the usual and convoluted medical jargon, continue to inform citizens about how to better protect themselves against the pandemic.
Like he did, before, while leading the fight against HIV Aids and Ebola, this President has provided the requisite superintendence in limiting not only the astronomical progression of the pandemic but also its debilitating effects on both the people and the country’s economy.
Although the pandemic has led to an economic reset globally, Uganda’s leadership has largely insulated us from uglier extremities that have shredded entire national economies elsewhere.
The Museveni administration, drawing from earlier experiences, demonstrated its preparedness to respond to the pandemic before the country recorded its first COVID-19 case.
The initial measures included restricting travel to and from high-risk countries, dispersing concentration points of people like schools, colleges, places of worship as well as political and social gatherings.
Those measures were reinforced with the mandatory institutional quarantine of all incoming travellers as well as the observance of basic SOPs like washing hands, social distancing, wearing of masks and imposing a curfew.
The President established the national task force headed at the highest level by the prime minister to compellingly and irresistibly over-see the implementation of strategies and policies aimed at inhibiting the pandemic; that was punctuated by an effective national response plan of action that manifested in terms of risk communication, testing and contact tracing at district and community levels.
It entailed screening all incoming travellers at ports of entry, training and preparing health workers as well as repurposing hospitals and other facilities like Namboole Stadium in order to better manage COVID-19 cases.
Available data shows that risk communication has been transparent, consistent and inclusive; it has taken into account the use of mainstream electronic, print and social media for public health messaging.
As indicated before, the president made good use of press briefings to manage public perceptions by delivering situation reports that tellingly mobilized the citizens against the pandemic.
Supplemental statistical revelations, lately, indicate that Uganda has the eighth highest number of people tested for COVID-19 in Africa.
In combination, the district task forces, village health teams, local councils and community-based disease surveillance teams have increased awareness through local language/dialect messaging and embodied the unfeigned game-changer in Uganda’s COVID-19 response.
As a result of Uganda’s robust COVID-19 response, the country has been billed as a role model for pandemic containment in Africa by among others the American Public Health Association.
The writer is the Deputy Head of Mission Uganda Embassy Abu Dhabi, UAE