Improving Healthcare in Uganda With the Merck Foundation
Residents of Uganda’s rural areas are challenged in finding accessible healthcare facilities. Without organized transportation, many Ugandans must walk or ride their bicycles to a health center. However, many Ugandan health centers cannot guarantee having the medicines or other services necessary to these patients. Fortunately, efforts are being made to improve healthcare in Uganda.
In June 2017, President Yoweri Museveni launched work on a $250 million hospital that will be located in Lubowa. The hospital will ensure that Ugandans no longer have to travel abroad for organ transplants, cancer treatment and heart surgery. The hospital will operate as a 264-bed facility with ultramodern health facilities. President Museveni adds that the hospital could promote Uganda as a destination for medical tourism.
In September 2017, the Merck Foundation committed to a long-term partnership with Uganda’s government that could build the country’s healthcare capacity. The partnership will specifically focus on Ugandans’ struggles with diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and infertility. The Merck Foundation also emphasized a commitment to work with Uganda’s Ministry of Health because of the country’s great strides in building regional centers of excellence for fertility and cancer.
The Merck Foundation and Uganda’s Ministry of Health also visited western Uganda’s rural villages where a campaign has established various projects to support infertile women. The Merck Foundation gave an oxen plow, poultry farms and table banking projects to the women in order to socially and economically empower them. “One of my most fulfilling moments is seeing these childless women lead happy and independent lives,” said Merck Foundation CEO Dr. Rasha Kelej to Africa Business Communities.
The Merck Foundation also committed to supporting the training of embryologists and fertility specialists at Uganda’s new Women Maternal Hospital. The organization will also support the hospital’s establishment of Uganda’s first public IVF center. The center aims to improve access to cost-effective fertility care across Uganda and the rest of Africa.
In November 2017, XSML (Central and East Africa’s fund managing company) announced plans to finance Ecopharm, a Ugandan medical center. “With this financing, Ecopharm will be able to reach out with additional pharmacies in new neighborhoods in Kampala,” said Jarl Heijstee, XSML’s managing partner. XSML’s financing will also help Ecopharm serve Uganda’s thousands of customers with high-quality pharmaceuticals.
Healthcare in Uganda has become a growing concern for the U.S. as well. On Jan. 3, 2018, the U.S. Agency for International Development launched a $28.3 million activity to strengthen the Acholi region’s health services. The Regional Health Integration to Enhance Services in Northern Uganda, Acholi (RHITES-Acholi) activity will increase Uganda’s healthcare provider availability, promote effective equipment maintenance and improve health services management.
On Jan. 16, 2018, the musician Diddy announced plans to donate $200,000 to the Unforgettable healthcare campaign that is improving Uganda’s Suubi “Hope” Health Center. This initiative was begun by French Montana after filming the video for “Unforgettable” in Kampala. “In addition to passing the torch to French, I’m showing my support for the work he is doing in Uganda,” said Diddy.
Diddy’s donation is also in response to French Montana and The Weeknd’s donations that each totaled $100,000. The three artists’ combined donations of $400,000 will help build Uganda’s maternal healthcare facilities that include a birth house, prenatal care clinic, new ambulance and more. “It’s important to give back, it’s important to be an agent of change,” said Diddy in the PSA video announcing his donation.
Financial stability is crucial to improving Uganda’s health services. The Merck Foundation’s long-term partnership with the country will continue to help Uganda’s patients and medical facilities. Assistance and aid from other entities will also play a key role in improving healthcare in Uganda.
– Rhondjé Singh Tanwar