7 May 2011

Uganda: Museveni Warns Health Officials On ARVs

The fight for global access to anti-Aids drugs has been given added urgency as a research study found that people with HIV who start taking ... ( Resource: Breakthrough in the fight against HIV )

PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has reprimanded health and finance ministry officials over importing medicines that can be bought locally, which he said must stop.

Citing the Luzira-based Quality Chemicals factory which produces antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, the President wondered why both ministries insisted on procuring ARVs from abroad even after he had warned them against it.

He said he had struggled to stop importation of ARVs for a number of years, but the "war" was still persisting.

"We built an ultramodern ARV factory, but it is always facing a lot of challenges from the health and finance ministries. They prefer importing drugs to buying the ones produced here. I am always at war with them. I always keep shouting. Even now there's a war going on," he said.

Museveni said initially, the health ministry's worry was about the factory being approved by the World Health Organisation. "But it is now approved. So you wonder why any public servant would insist on importing drugs, yet we have the ones produced by our own children," he said.

"Local ARVs give our children jobs on top of treating AIDs. But you, a civil servant, you insist on giving the money to someone else!"

Museveni made the remarks while addressing hundreds of people who attended the second Prof. Frank Kalimuzo's memorial lecture at the Kampala Imperial Royale Hotel on Friday.

This is not the first time the President is publicly criticising health ministry officials for disobeying his orders.

In 2009, Museveni ordered the suspension of the then health ministry permanent secretary, Mary Nanono, for defying his directive to label and emboss government medical supplies, among other issues.

Although the Inspectorate of Government cleared Nanono, she has never been redeployed.

Speaking about Kalimuzo, Museveni eulogised him as one of the pioneers of education in Kigezi sub-region and contributed sh20m towards the Kalimuzo Scholarship Fund for needy students at Kabale University.

Prof. Kalimuzo was the first head of the civil service and first vice-chancellor of Makerere University.

Former president Idi Amin's boys of the notorious Public Safety Unity grabbed and whisked Kalimuzo away from his home in Makerere in 1972, accusing him of being Milton Obote's ally. Kalimuzo was murdered and his body has never been found.

Museveni also urged African universities and other tertiary institutions to provide an education that addresses the real needs of the continent to spur development.

He identified the needs as boosting science and technology, health, entrepreneurship, modernising agriculture, practical managerial skills and defending the sovereignty of the different states.

"A country, which cannot defend itself from outside intrusion is not sovereign. Education must equip our youth with the capability to defend the sovereignty of their countries," Museveni said.

He reiterated the need to integrate patriotism studies into the education curricula right from primary to university level.

Museveni added that universities must devise measures to increase the number of doctors in the country to achieve the ideal doctor-people ratio of 1:500.

With a population of 33 million people, Uganda needs about 66,000 more doctors to match the ideal ratio, the President said.

Godfrey Uzoigwe, a professor of history at Mississippi State University, urged African leaders to prioritise and pay more attention to higher education to achieve sustainable economic development.

Uzoigwe called for more funding for universities and tertiary institutions, saying a country, which failed to make education a priority, would lag behind.

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