N. Uganda: Hepatitis E Epidemic Unanswered

>> Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Hepatitis E epidemic in N. Uganda rages on, as contaminated water sources and poor sanitation provided by government and NGO's for a decade produces conditions ripe for disease outbreaks.

James Abola writes in the Monitor about the government's slow response to the epidemic.

For about two years now there has been no fighting within Acholi between the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces and the Lords Resistance Army.

Reports that Hepatitis E, a viral disease that can lead to liver failure has spread from Kitgum District to other districts in Acholi, killing some 97 people in the process, provides a rude reminder that the absence of war is not necessarily the presence of peace.

The ministry of health announced last week that it was launching a Shs10 billion programme in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to counter the outbreak of Hepatitis E. The programme will among other things educate the population, improve water and sanitation conditions in the Internally Displaced People’s camp and help to set up an early warning system so that such high fatalities are avoided in future.

The primary reason why the disease has spread throughout most of Kitgum District where it was first observed in October 2007 and has spilled over to other districts is because of the conditions in the IDP camps.

The IDP camps have been notorious for being a poverty trap and their continued existence will only deepen the widespread poverty in the region.

The settlement patterns within the IDP camps provide the perfect recipe for outbreak of communicable diseases: houses are huddled together, with a very high population concentrated in a very small area . . . Many people in the northern region have been begging that the government and development agencies help them to return to their homes by providing three things, namely: open access roads, build or repair drinking water supply, provide seeds and agricultural implements.

Unfortunately these appeals have so far fallen on deaf ears. The billions from the ministry of health and the WHO would have done a more long lasting good if they were applied to building and rehabilitating water supplies to people return to their homes.

The minister of health said that the programme to counter Hepatitis E outbreak will also set up an early warning system.

That sounds good but will it really work?

From the statement issued by the minister the first case of the disease was observed as far back as October 2007. I visited Kitgum District in January 2008 and was informed by a Non Governmental Organisation as a well as a medical officer at St. Joseph’s Hospital that Hepatitis E had been identified in areas such as Kitgum Matidi.

Is the reason for the slow response by the ministry of health to counter the hepatitis outbreak a result of the absence of an early warning system or is it just another case of poor leadership and incompetent management?

I would love to know if the officer in charge of Health Services in Kitgum did not inform his superiors in Kampala early enough about the outbreak. Not long ago a foreign tourist died after being bitten by a bat and government officials were trampling over each other to be first to respond to that situation.

How is it that it took 97 deaths before there was a response to the Hepatitis E outbreak?

Read the Full Article at the Monitor


About This Blog

The X.U.G (Xpose Uganda's Genocide) Coalition was created to bring to light the truth about Yoweri Museveni's woefully undemocratic regime and the ongoing secret genocide in northern Uganda, with the aim of the restoration of human rights and peace.

The coalition's secondary goal is to ensure accountability for reconstruction and development funds slated for war-torn N. Uganda by the US and other donors.

A crisis of epic proportions, the genocide being carried out against the Acoli for the last two decades has produced devastating consequences.

For the sake of current and future generations in Uganda, the world must recognize and end the genocide in Uganda. All Ugandans have a right to basic human rights, including the right to health, protection and education.

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