KAMPALA — Uganda is a tropical country located in East Africa with a dismal history of political upheaval and civil unrest. After gaining independence from Britain in 1962, Uganda soon faced a 14-year period of violent conflict under the rule of dictatorships which claimed the lives of 400,000 Ugandans. After a democratic 1996 election, the country’s internal political structure became relatively stable.
The tumultuous nature which lead to this stability, however, left little concern about the health of Ugandan citizens. Because the country is still a developing nation, little research has been done on common diseases in Uganda.
What is known is that the healthcare of Ugandans is subpar. The World Health Organization classifies the health status of Ugandans as “poor” and states that “this is mainly due to infectious and parasitic diseases, most of which are preventable and/or treatable.”
Infectious diseases are mostly treatable; however, since most healthcare organizations in Uganda are private, a large number have appeared in the region due to competition. This has created a challenging environment for organizations to work together to treat common diseases in Uganda.
The most common disease Uganda faces is the HIV virus. In 2015, it was estimated that 1.5 million Ugandans contracted HIV which totals over seven percent of the country’s population. Men who engage in unprotected sex with other men, intravenous drug users and sex workers are most likely to contract the HIV virus. An increase in African sexual education programs could limit this number.
“I believe if I had received education that taught me about my rights and how to express my sexuality safely, it would have given me the skills to negotiate condom use” said Lebogang Brenda Motsumi, a HIV-positive South African sexual education activist at a summit sponsored by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Although HIV/AIDS is among the most common diseases in Uganda, malaria is the most fatal — the disease is the leading cause of mortality in Uganda. Malaria is transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitos and is difficult to avoid in areas where lager populations of the insects exist.
Uganda’s reputation for being one of the highest rating countries in Africa for malaria means that in a given year, 16 million cases appear and about 100,000 Ugandans die. Unfortunately, the Ugandan government has reported an unexplained outbreak of malaria in the northern parts of the country.
Fortunately, Uganda has instated a national ministry of health with the mission to “provide the highest possible level of health services to all people in Uganda through delivery of promotive, preventive, curative, palliative and rehabilitative health services at all levels.” As the dangers of HIV and malaria become even more prevalent, the Ugandan Ministry of Health will need to continue to be proactive in combatting such fatal diseases.
– Michael Carmack