By Ochola Dominic
In partnership with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the European Union has offered the Ministry of Health a mobile laboratory worth 700 million Shillings to strengthen surveillance of infectious diseases and healthcare systems along Ugandan borders.
The mobile lab which is to be stationed at the Central Health Laboratories in Butabika National Referral Hospital in Kampala will be used to collect specimens from suspected patients across the country and within cross-border areas in case of disease outbreaks for transportation and testing.
It will also help healthcare workers serve people in remote areas who do not have good access to lab service, especially truck drivers in main border points of entry and during mass population movement or displacement during health emergencies.
The facility was handed over to the Minister of State for Health in charge of Primary Health Care, Margaret Muhanga Mugisa by Guillaume Chartrain, the EU’s Deputy Ambassador in Uganda from the Ministry of Health headquarters on Wednesday. It becomes the third mobile lab out of the five urgently needed by the Ministry.
Citing Covid-19, Guillaume noted that the pandemic ruthlessly exposed the fragility of health systems worldwide, thus the mobile lab is a testimony of solidarity by the EU to fortify all aspects of prevention, preparedness, and response on a global scale for the universal benefit.
Speaking during the same event, Hamid Idrees, an IGAD’s Health and Social Development Division expert explained that the mobile lab will help sample referrals from cross-border areas in case of an outbreak to the nearest lab for testing.
Margaret Muhanga Mugisa, the Minister of State for Health (Primary Health Care), noted that Uganda is vulnerable to several disease outbreaks given its location within the Congo rainforest and basin citing Ebola which recently ravaged Kassanda and Mubende Districts killing 77 and infecting 160 others.
Muhanga applauded EU-IGAD for the partnership with the Government of Uganda, noting that while the country has been averting all outbreaks, the mobile lab will improve the turnaround time for sample collection, transportation, and testing to strengthen other emergency medical responses
Notably, previously under the Covid-19 Response Program, the EU and IGAD supported the Ministry of Health with an advanced and two standard ambulances; 803,230 Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), and 25,056 Covid test kits.
They also delivered two Polymerase Chain Reactions – PCR laboratories which were delivered to Arua and Moroto Regional Referral Hospitals to support surveillance and laboratory services during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
The Covid-19 Response Program focuses on refugee settlements, increasing access to health, water, sanitation, and hygiene – WASH services, combating gender-based violence, and ensuring borders are safe for trade in the IGAD region which comprises countries of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.
Currently, the Ministry of Health says despite averting Ebola threats successfully, Uganda is still recording at least 10 cases of Covid every day and 60 weekly, with most cases being reported from within Kampala Metropolitan Area.