How General Museveni’s Collapsed Healthcare System Keeps Ugandans Impoverished

Gen. Museveni
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Ugandan dictator Gen. Museveni

[My Free Thoughts]

The biggest cause of poverty in Uganda currently, as Dr. Kizza Besigye recently put it, is indeed a neglected public health system.

Besigye is the respected elder statesman of Ugandan politics who ran against dictator Gen. Yoweri Museveni four times and is believed to have won at least three of those races. Gen. Museveni simply refused to yield power just as he did after he was decisively defeated Jan. 14 by Bobi Wine.

Undeniably, other factors like inequality, poor education, poor governance, unemployment and what have you--contribute to poverty. But the broken public health system ushered in by Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) regime has caused many people to dwindle in the deepest abyss of poverty. Their children inherit nothing but debt and impoverishment.

Transport, consultation, medical tests, medicines, and operations cost an arm and a leg. If the government were caring, they would put health care as the first priority without politicizing it by hiring bum-lickers of the dictator to be in charge.

Politicization of the health sector has led to hiring of incompetent personnel without merit. As long as you are a Museveni bum-licker and you can hold your ground while looting with fellow thieves in government, you get the job and re-appointments.

A Ugandan who is not rich may agree with the good politician, Dr. Besigye, that the majority of Ugandans who cannot afford to pay for health insurance will face difficulties in managing to check into well-equipped private hospitals since the public hospitals have no equipment or medicines and have become death traps.

The majority of families having a breadwinner who is coping with chronic illnesses which require ongoing medical attention or limited activities of daily living or both, have been forced to sell assets to cover medical expenses or borrow at high interest rates which eventually makes them heavily indebted to the community. What is the purpose of this government if it cannot provide free medical attention to every Ugandan without discrimination and other flimsy excuses?

Many who are battling chronic illnesses, use a portion of their salary to access better health services in private hospitals when in fact that money could be saved or invested in other income generating projects if the government hospitals were functioning properly.

Everyone has a story of how their parents or relatives sold off properties or spent all their lifetime savings on medication in the private hospitals. Healthcare should be a right for every Ugandan. Alas, the Museveni regime has plunged the health sector into a shambolic state. When senior regime officials get sick, they rush to Europe or the United States for treatment. They  leave the neglected public hospitals to the wretched of the earth.

You will never find a government official who needs better medical attention that he or she is at any government facility—they fly out in order to access better medication and leave these public hospitals for poor Ugandans who have no choice but to get maltreated death traps.

I will use my father—bless his soul—as an example. He lived as a poor man because of the medical expenses he incurred throughout his retirement years. He eventually lost the battle and paddled to the far beyond, leaving us with heavy debt to pay. The government hospitals he had been frequenting in 20 years had made him a beggar of medicine—sometimes the meds would be available and sometimes not. Whenever they would be unavailable, the nurses would ask him to go back home and return after a week or so to collect the doses. He would debate on whether to travel many miles to a private hospital where he would be required to pay lots of money or whether to wait for the government free drugs, not knowing when they would come. 

There was no experienced doctor available to keep monitoring his health. What was diabetes culminated into kidney disease, hypertension, liver cancer, prostate cancer, and other ailments. By the time he was taken to a private facility, his condition had become dire and he would not live for more than two years.

I remember there was one time, at a government health center, he was falsely diagnosed with ulcers and given a bag full of tablets and syrups. The pain exacerbated and a year later he was diagnosed with liver cancer in advanced stages yet he had been given medicine for stomach ulcers. 

Whenever I remember my father having to sell a cow or two every time he went to the hospital, I think about a person with chronic illnesses but with no cows or other assets to sell or even employment.

One cannot progress when every penny they get goes to paying medical expenses. Children drop out of school when their parents can no longer manage to pay their fees as a result of medical expenses. It is from dropping out of school that we have so many illiterate poor youth.

The NRM government headed by dictator Museveni is the biggest beneficiary of Uganda’s poverty. A regime which is weak and could be removed but is constantly bailed out by the World Bank and IMF by hundreds of millions in loans to aid, abet, and prolong the crimes.

Columnist Kakwenza, a survivor of Gen. Museveni’s torture chambers can be reached via kakwenzarukirabashaija@gmail.com 

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