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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Patrick Katagata; Ugandans Oblivious of Wild Polio Virus Outbreak?

By Patrick Katagata (Opinion)

They are many and if unchecked, they’ll kill more Ugandans than have fallen in all wars or succumbed to HIV and AIDS. They are worse than corruption, if we could know.

They are more disastrous than Ebola - slowly but significantly they ravage the nation. They are Uganda’s transformation silent enemies: closed / rigid mindsets; negative self-perception; poor or complete lack of security consciousness, poor health or disease vigilance; fatal laziness, drunkenness etc.

I’ve just returned from monitoring the recently concluded the National Polio Supplementary Immunization Activities (SIA) conducted by WHO-Uganda in conjunction with Ministry of Health, with mixed feelings: It’s exciting as it’s disturbing. It’s exciting knowing that our government is keenly protecting our children against the Wild Polio Virus (WPV) that’s confirmed broke out in the Horn of Africa in 2013 and in 2014.

With our high cross-border movements, unending influx of refugees etc, there would be a possible importation of the same into the country. In fact, I wouldn’t consider erroneous to contend that this Vaccination should have come earlier. Luckily, we haven’t yet had any bloody cases!

But I’m also disturbed that many Ugandan especially in the countryside continue to live oblivious of the impending doom this WPV outbreak may inflict on the lives of their children and generally, the national economy, or they simply don’t care!

In my efforts to explain to those in my area of coverage, I was often told that “we don’t know and we don’t care about your (government) programmes. They don’t concern us etc.” Have you heard the urban and peri-urban dwellers’ common phrase of ‘sagala kumanya’?

That’s exactly what it means and that’s the kind of attitude that continues to influence our people’s behavioral tendencies inadvertently affecting their health decisions and consequently, general wellness.

How can you be ignorant and still say you’re comfortable that way? How does one expect the government to take care of everything about them including keeping the sanitation of their own homes – tusaba gavumenti etuyambe?

Specifically, the harsh realities I encountered in the aforementioned assignment, revolved around people recklessly volunteering information about others to strangers which could be an easy entry route for terrorism; able-bodied young people in sports betting or in bars or women watching Soap Operas as early as ten O’clock; general poor disease awareness.

But the worst of all was how some people still perceive themselves as cursed from creation times and how they can never be like Whites or Rwandese whom they believe have White blood from their lineage.

That immunization kills children to pave way for Europeans’ settlement in Africa etc. If Uganda will transform, that kind of thinking must stop!

Of course, I’m glad that there are some Ugandans thirsting for national transformation and have undertaken specialized training designed for just that through the Institute for National Transformation–Uganda. There are a few Alumni and their fruits are well visible.

Most notable among these are: Dr. James Magara, CEO - Jubilee Dental Clinics and Vine Christian Academy; former URA Commissioner General, Allen Kagina; Hon. Benson Obua Ogwal (Moroto County); Uganda AIDS Commission’s Director General, Dr. Christine Ondoa; Dr. Monica Musenero (her work in fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone says it all); KCCA’s Jennifer Ssmakula Musisi etc.

If you’ve interacted with these people at whatever level or know their work resolve and results in their respective organizations, that’s what national transformation is about! The quest for national transformation is urgent more than never before and it can’t merely be left to a handful of citizens.

We need more – we’re all called upon!

The writer is currently undertaking the Oak seed Executive Leadership Programme at the Institute for National Transformation - Uganda.

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