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KAMPALA, April 15 (Xinhua) -- Health officials in Uganda on Thursday said the east African country has renewed efforts to ensure health equity even among people in the most remote areas.

The country on Thursday was belatedly commemorating the World Health Day, which is globally marked on April 7 annually. The commemorations, which will last until Dec. 12, Universal Health Coverage Day, are held under the theme -- Health Equity - Building a Fairer and Healthier World.

Ruth Aceng, minister of Health, said ensuring health equity is one of the country's long-term strategies toward attaining Universal Health Coverage and hence achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Aceng said lack of health care equity is of increasing concern as countries transition to a situation of high infectious and non-communicable disease burdens.

In many African countries, including Uganda, there are substantial health care disparities with most health care resources located within urban centers, said Aceng. "This situation requires a robust Primary Health Care network to diagnose, treat, and monitor patients due to a long continuum of care."

UN Resident Coordinator in Uganda Rosa Malango said countries must now implement the commitments they made towards achieving universal health coverage, including increasing the share of the health budget to 15 percent of the total national budget. The health budget in Uganda only takes 5 percent of the national budget.

"We can build resilient health systems capable of ensuring that people obtain services when and where they need them," Malango said. "We can innovate and develop vaccines, health equipment and protective gear to increase access to care regardless of your location or status."

Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, the World Health Organization (WHO) country representative to Uganda, said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has showed how critical it is to address health inequities.

"COVID-19 is just the latest example of why WHO is so focused on achieving Health for all. In WHO we know that it is important to create circumstances and social, economic and environmental conditions that allow people to fulfil their health potential," Woldemariam said. "People must be helped to overcome barriers that prevent them from accessing quality health services and to ensure that those services are available everywhere and to everyone."

Minister Aceng said over the years, government has continued to prioritize access to health care, noting that currently 86 percent of the country's population is now within a 5-km reach of either a public or private health facility.

"This is intended to bridge the gap of distance and access to health care as well as the economic opportunity costs associated with travel to the health facility," the minister said.

To reduce the high level of out-of-pocket health expenditure, the Ministry of Health has put in place a national health insurance scheme. According to the Ministry of Health data, out-of-pocket expenditure in Uganda is 40 percent, which is 25 percentage points higher than recommended WHO levels for out-of-pocket expenditures.

High out-of-pocket expenditure has led to a high incidence of catastrophic health spending among the poor in Uganda.

Aceng said the ministry has also revised the resource allocation formulae to enhance equity in the distribution of local government transfers across districts and health facilities.

Government has also continued to provide subsidies to private-not-for-profit health providers to lower user-fees, while health care is provided for free in the public health facilities since 2001.

The country has also upgraded over 200 Health Center IIs to Health Center IIIs in a bid to ensure that every sub-county has a health facility at the level of Health Center III. At Health Center III level, there are all forms of health care including maternity services.

Malango said the UN will continue to support Uganda to improve the health and well-being of its people through the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework 2021-2025 and the country's development programs. - Xinhua

Turkish President Receb Tayeb Ordogan (left) and South Sudanese president Salva Kiir Mayardit. Photo via Getty Images

 

JUBA – A Turkish charity on Wednesday distributed food aid packages among vulnerable South Sudanese in the capital Juba.

More than 500 families are going to benefit from the 430 food packages distributed by Turkish organization Ab-i Hayat during Ramadan, a Muslim holy month.

Handing over the food packages, Turkish Ambassador to South Sudan Erdem Mutaf said Islam is a religion of peace and voiced hope for everybody to be in peace during the holy Ramadan.

“This is a token of love and friendship from the Turkish people. We will continue supporting the people of South Sudan,” Mutaf said.

Abdallah Braj Rwal, head of the South Sudan Islamic Council, appreciated the Turkish government for its support to the people of South Sudan.

Katmala Ramadan Suleiman, one of the beneficiaries, thanked the Turkish government, saying: “This support is very important to us because it comes at a time when everything has become expensive in the country due to the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” - Sudans Post

South Sudan’s First Vice President Riek Machar receives the covid-19 jab on April 7, 2021. Photo Courtesy

 

April 7, 2021 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s First Vice President Riek Machar on Wednesday received the AstraZeneca jab against Coronavirus, becoming the first senior official at the presidency to be vaccinated against the pandemic.

This came a day the COVID-19 vaccination drive kicked off, with health workers getting their first dose of the Astra Zeneca vaccine at Juba Teaching Hospital.

Machar urged people to continue observing preventive measures against the pandemic, including wearing masks as well as maintaining social distancing.

While speaking at the launch of the vaccination campaign on Tuesday, South Sudan’s Health minister, Elizabeth Achuei said the aim of the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine is to protect the prioritized groups against COVID-19”.

South Sudan seeks to vaccinate 40 per cent of its population against COVID-19.

“The first phase of the vaccination is conducted in Central Equatoria State targeting health care workers as well as persons aged 65 years and older, given their increased risk of severe disease and death due to a potential COVID-19 infection”, said Achuei.

A person being vaccinated with the Astra Zeneca vaccine requires two doses to ensure optimal immune response against the COVID-19 virus. The COVID-19 vaccination in South Sudan will be provided on a voluntary basis and free of charge and people receiving the vaccine will be asked to consent prior to being vaccinated.

Last month, South Sudan received 132,000 doses of the Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The first COVAX supported shipment of vaccines will target health care workers as well as persons aged 65 years and older, given their increased risk of severe disease and death due to a potential COVID-19 infection.

Health experts, however, say while COVID-19 vaccination is important to protect the most vulnerable and exposed people from getting infected and reduce morbidity and mortality, continued adherence to preventive measures to avoid the spread of the virus by wearing facial masks and respecting social distancing remains crucial. - Sudan Tribune

(ST)

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