Malaria stalks Uganda's refugees

The government could be doing more to fight the disease, health workers say.

by

    Children often die because of the lack of
    adequate medical supplies 
    In northern Uganda, tens of thousands of people live in refugee camps after nearly 20 years of civil war.

    However, hospitals there are running out of malaria drugs and bed nets are stuck in government stores.

    It is a situation complicated by a government policy that still allows for the use of chloroquine, an anti-malarial agent against which the disease has become increasingly resistant
    .

    The Ugandan government issues packs of the drug for home use, which can delay parents seeking effective medical care for their children and potentially cost lives.

    In the main government hospital in the district of Lira, the issues also include standards of hygiene and the adequate supply of drugs.

    If the drugs run out and parents cannot afford to buy private medicine, the children often die.

    Dr Peter Kusolo, director of health services for Lira, said: "It's something that we don't like to see, but it does happen.

    "If you have a family of five and the resources to feed two, then you have to stretch those resources to feed five - and that is exactly what we are doing."

    Young at risk

    Factfile: Malaria

    The World Health Organisation says that malaria kills 1.2 million people a year

    The disease kills one person every 28 seconds

    One million deaths a year are children under five - 900,000 of those are in sub-Saharan Africa

    Malaria is estimated to cost Africa more than $12bn in lost GDP

    Source: World Health Organisation

    The situation is far worse in camps for displaced people in northern Uganda.

    In Amugo, for example, up to 20,000 people have been living with poor sanitation, no water and electricity, and the constant threat of mosquitoes breeding in stagnant water nearby.

    They have run away from conflict - but there is no escaping the disease, which preys mainly on the young.

    For children in Amugo, malaria is the main cause of death.

    Aid effort

    Your Views

    There is a shortage of mosquito nets and the government's failure to provide adequate medical supplies and effective drugs is a cause of frustration.

    Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the medical aid agency, is spraying the camps in an attempt to kill mosquitoes.

    But there is a shortage of mosquito nets and the government's failure to provide adequate medical supplies and effective drugs is a cause of frustration.

    As Christine Schmitz, head of the MSF mission in Uganda, said: "It's a very tragic situation in a country like Uganda which is not a failed state, which is not in a full-blown civil war, which has very well trained Ugandan medical staff, which has drugs and resources available and loads of donors and NGOs who are happy to assist."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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