The efforts of Dr. Diana Atwine, the head of the Presidential Drug Monitoring Unit should be applauded and not frustrated. Uganda is one of those countries that still has dismal funding to the health sector hence every effort to safe guard the little channeled to the ministry is necessary.
Government has a duty to supply essential medicine to all its health centers; however a big percentage of these medicines are leaked out of the system hence depriving the intended beneficiaries.
The 2008 Anti -Corruption Week, an annual event commemorated by ACCU and its members decided to focus on the health sector specifically essential medicines, and our advocacy issue was branding of government medicine to avoid the then rampant theft. This joint effort with various stake holders ultimately yielded results when the president of Uganda H.E Yoweri Museveni in his 2008 New Year speech directed the Ministry of Health to brand all government drugs.
The directive was later implemented where all tablets, boxes and tins were branded. However with time, some tablets are no longer branded but only the tins, thus enabling the fraudsters to put the medicine in different tins that were not branded and selling these drugs to the unsuspecting public.
Constantly, the issue of selective branding has raised and the argument has been that government cannot brand every tablet because some of the tablets are too small and costly to brand. This in the long run has resurrected the vice which government has tried to curb.
Government therefore needs to re-think its priorities vis-à-vis its people. The argument that government does not have sufficient funds to label all its medicines is a hoax considering the hefty sums of money abused most of which finds its way on personal accounts of a few highly placed individuals. These monies if used wisely and patriotically can brand all essential medicines and prevent loss of lives.
It's still amazing how these medicines are stolen from government facilities despite the existence of flawless systems. This reveals the bigger picture of the fight against corruption in Uganda. The systems, policies/laws are in existence but deliberately flouted by custodians themselves, and in most cases no action has been taken against them when incriminated.
The solution is one however drastic it may be, we need a total over haul of the system!!
Cissy Kagaba is the Executive Director - Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda