Burundi in the news; reflections on Uganda’s health care system

Ask any ‘East African’ about Burundi, they will either point to the recent wave of killing of Albinos or the long armed conflict.

I hardly see any positive stories out of the country. There’s  limited interregional and international coverage of the country but this week a BBC story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8271331.stm got some positive story on how the health system is improving.

The story is that three years ago children under five years of age and new mothers in Burundi were granted free access to medical care. I immediately reflected on what this would mean if it was in Uganda. Of course it has brought visible changes knowing maternal mortality is high in most sub-Saharan countries. If  Uganda had this in place, the disease burden would be substantially reduced because children under five and new mothers constitute a big part of the people who can’t easily access health yet the mortality rates in these groups are high.

Uganda has lagged behind in presenting a good intervention like transparent health insurance policies where citizens can pay as low as a dollar a month to cater for their health. Burundi’s intervention indeed has made a big difference but it still lags behind Rwanda’s increase in health care coverage for ordinary people. African countries need to do much to deal with the disease burden. Why should Ugandans travel all the way to India for a heart surgery or move to South Africa, to be treated by Ugandan educated doctors? We must keep doctors in the country, they should have a decent pay.

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